Monday, 27 October 2014

Election Day! Vote smart, vote right!

Today is Election Day! 
Today I will pick who will make the decisions in the City in which I live and choose to raise my family.
Today, I will vote for change.
Like most things, experience makes you better  - practice makes perfect right?
Not in municipal politics.
Experience in politics does stand for something, but not what it should.
Too much experience on a City Council can make a councillor too comfortable, too involved in politicking to see clearly on issues that are affecting their fellow residents. Their judgments become clouded  with too many opinions and inside information to make the best choice.

Although they may not admit it - or even recognize it - biases are made and that open-mindedness that they likely ran on in the first place has diminished.
Sometimes, common sense and the pure innocence of a well-rounded and well-researched newbie can yield the best solution.

What do we have to lose? Everyone is going to make mistakes. If the same council were re-elected tonight, mistakes will be made. If a new council is elected, mistakes will be made. But, with some new faces around the table there is a greater opportunity for change, new ideas and a refreshing new direction for the future of our Friendly City. And in the end, the same staff will be directing the council.

For months, citizens have commented on a need for change in the City. Don't fear the unknown, take a chance and VOTE for change today!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Joy in 3-F Clinic

Tiny voices, bright faces and joyful laughter filled the playroom by 8 a.m. The teens had their video games, the toddlers had their trains and for a moment all looked right in the world.

Except all of these kids were bald. All of these kids had lines and walked or crawled with IV poles attached. All of these kids have cancer. 

This busy playroom on the third floor at McMaster Children's Hospital is where week after week kids of all ages come to get chemotherapy treatment. 

The children play together - some too young to even understand the bond they share from their experience with this disease. And the parents - they smile, they laugh and support one another. 

Today, I was back in this clinic with Xavier awaiting his lumbar puncture. It has been four years since we have been there. Time has helped me forget. But, as much as I want to forget the devastating diagnosis and everything that followed, I fondly remembered the strength and kindness within those four walls of the 3-F Clinic. 

A woman approached me today, noticing I was a newbie to the clinic. She introduced herself and wanted to know how I was doing. Just three short months ago, her daughter was diagnosed with ALL. But now, she was offering me support as she settled into the "routine" of  having a child undergoing cancer treatment. 

After our conversation (explaining we went through treatment and attend the after care clinic now) I looked around the room and saw so many strangers being there for each other. Through tragedy comes togetherness and through togetherness comes strength. 

Clinic was good for that. Sometimes I miss that weekly support group. Now I live day after day with a child who had cancer, but no required weekly meet-and-greet with others who share the same fears and concerns. 

I would never want to go back to that clinic. But in hindsight, it is comforting to see the good that came out of that experience. I likely didn't see it back then, but my refresher there today now as an outsider, has given me a fresh perspective.

I was reminded again how incredibly grateful I am to be where we are today. Never forget where you have come from.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Kids need to be kids - even with cancer

No one wants to see their child hurt. But when you have a child with a serious medical condition, seeing your child in pain can often be a frequent occurrence. Physical pain is one thing - emotional suffering is another- one I had little experience with until recently.

(Yes, I am struggling, so that's why I am writing!)

When Xavier was initially diagnosed and treated for brain cancer, he was a baby. He couldn't talk, express his feelings or even remember the trauma he suffered. Now, he is older, smarter and more thoughtful - yet too young to understand.

About a month ago we started to see a change in Xavier. He was different. His sleep patterns changed, he was lethargic and other symptoms arose that concerned us. An MRI was immediately scheduled, followed by appointments with multiple doctors. A lumbar puncture has now been scheduled.

I am not concerned they will find more cancer. I am not worried there is anything physically wrong. What has me scared and heart broken is Xavier's emotional reaction to the latest round of hospital visits.

He is worried. He doesn't want more pokes and I can sense he is now afraid to let us know if he feels different because he knows it will mean more tests.

Last night he couldn't sleep because he is worried something is wrong with him. "Mommy I pee a lot and I don't know why," he says after hearing us bring this concern to the doctor. It's almost as if he feels guilty for having shown a symptom he can't control. He tells me he doesn't like the poke when he is awake and asks to be gassed first.

This made me sad and question whether he should be part of our discussions with the doctors. I want him to be informed, to be a part of what is ultimately his life. But on the other hand, I want him to be oblivious. I want him to be a five-year-old boy.

No child should ever have to think about these things. During play with his sister, they have hospital visits and even one of her Barbie's has cancer.

How honest do you be with a child his age about his past diagnosis and current situation? I will never lie to him. I will always tell him (in a way he can understand) what is going on. And like I told him last night, I am extremely proud of what a brave, strong boy he is!

It's during times like this where my own strength is challenged... I tell myself I need to accept this is our life, this will be his life. Nothing is going to change except our attitudes and thoughts if we let them. But I refuse to be anything but positive. And I hope that in exposing Xavier to my positivity, he too will learn how to think for the better not for the worse.

I challenge everyone who may be going through a tough time, to find that silver lining. If you believe in your head it's there, then it is there. Go find it!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

MRI pictures for the photo album

Doctors were elated with Xavier's post-surgery MRI!

You could see the surgeons' excitement as they talked about the "excellent" results. They admitted that at first they were unsure whether the surgery was the best option at this time and gave us only a chance that it could work.

Today, Dr. Singh said Xavier has made her month.

"It was definitely the right thing to do!"

In two months, the surgery accomplished what neurosurgeons suspected would happen in six or more months.

The three large cysts that had formed in his spinal cord due to a blockage of fluid in his brain, had almost disappeared. They have shrunk beyond what both surgeons expected.

And the best part was that I got to see these amazing results!

Rarely do we see the actual MRI images, but rather just take the doctors word on what they saw.
But today, doctors were so pumped by the drastic changes in the images they had to show me.

It was amazing. In plain sight, I could see the large cysts formed in the fluid space along his spinal cord. The dark grey blobs could be seen in every angle of every picture taken in the MRI.

Then the after MRI: only a sliver of two cysts were visible. The third, gone. They could only be seen in once picture - at one angle.

To some it may be difficult or creepy to see an MRI of your child's brain and spine. But to me it was like looking at one of Xavier's baby pictures. It was a beautiful sight. The image, so crisp and so clear, now showed near perfection and the delicate work performed by such amazingly talented surgeons.

No more cysts plus no signs of cancer plus no symptoms = one happy boy and an ecstatic mom!

Thank you for all your prayers and support. Today never would have happened without your encouraging words.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Will cancer or climate change be the end to humanity?

Someday the human race as we know it will not exist.

As proven through time, history has a tendancy of repeating itself. Simply put, we haven't always existed so at some point we too will become extinct.

I recently watched an intriguing documentary about the earth, its formation and evolution through time. The science of our universe as depicted in the series 'Cosmos' is fascinating - even if regurgitated information from grade school geography and science. The show strives to bring the relevance of the past to the future and how we continue to be affected.

It definately got me excited about science and the fact it airs on Fox and produced by Family Guy's Seth McFarlane does not make it any less credible.

After watching, I questioned life as we see it today... and how that in billions of years from now the world will be a very different place. Will trees exist? Who will walk the earth then? Will Argentina and South Africa become one? So many unknowns and theories beyond my comprehension. Mind-boggling stuff!

However, I continue to think about it... and what will cause the end of our evolutionary life? So many theories are at play here, similar to the unexplained extinction of  dinosaurs.

"As dinosaur science began to alter this hypothesis, producing a new view of dinosaurs as successful and viable organisms, many of these extinction theories became less tenable. New information from fossil localities suggested that many other organisms, most unrelated to dinosaurs, had also gone extinct at the same time. New theories were required to explain these new discoveries and newly understood facts. A favored theory was that tectonically induced climate change interfered with food chains, disrupting them enough to cause widespread extinction among many different organisms."
- Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Are there clues from Darwin's theory of evolution, or how about Thomas Malthus' theory of population. Will there be a malthusian check that will cripple humans to the point of extinction? Could that be disease - cancer?

Or will it be a combination of climate change, war and disase or simply we become a product of being evolved for too long?

Just food for thought. It really doesn't matter in my lifetime as I will be long gone by that time. And I will never discount my religious belief that God has a plan and whatever that may be, will happen.

But it's fascinating to think about.

I just came across this article today (May 29). "World on brink of another mass extinction"

Before we become extinct, we will kill off plant and animal species first unless we do something now.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Celebrating RMH on McHappy Day

It's a place I wish didn't have to exist.

For that to happen, it would mean no child would ever get sick or need surgery requiring them to stay in a hospital. It would mean no childhood cancer, no trauma and no life-threatening diseases.

Unfortunately that is not reality.

But the silver lining in a world of childhood illness is a place called Ronald McDonald House.

These homes away from home are like a dose of medicine to relieve - even a little - the painful hours, days and months families endure while a child  is in hospital with a serious injury or illness.

RMH also "helps give sick children what they need most - their families."

I know this is true... because I have stayed there. That's why I am supporting McHappy Day to raise money for RMH.

RMH Hamilton was my home in 2010 and again this March. Both were positive experiences that left me feeling grateful and appreciative of the people who make these homes happen.

This place is close to our hearts and meant so much to us during a difficult time.

For weeks at a time over a period of several months my husband and I both stayed there while our son underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumour followed by months of chemotherapy.

Most recently, my daughter also got to stay at the newly renovated home in Hamilton. Words cannot describe how great it was to have her there with me after spending long days in ICU with my son. By still being close to McMaster, I was able to relax and enjoy my playtime with her. It lessened the anxiety of being away.

And the opportunity for her to be with mom during what must have been a confusing and scary time for a 4-year-old also left her with a positive experience.

"It was great," she always tells people.

Our family spoke so highly of RMH on our visits at the hospital, that my son insisted on going there once he was released. As eager as we were to go back home, we took my son for a tour of RMH Hamilton. He too was amazed and excited about the home.

Home-cooked meals, laundry facilities, quiet seating areas and recreational activities are only a few of the services offered at RMH. The home was clearly designed to meet our needs. The playroom was conveniently located off the dining room, so as I sipped my morning coffee I could watch Mackenzie play before returning to Mac.

The spacious rooms were quiet and comfortable. It truly was a place where I could come back to and relax. Supper would be warm and ready upon my return and whatever I needed was there, whether it was a hot tea, a snack or toothpaste.

It was a safehaven. A place where I could forget about the tubes, wires, monitors and hospital routines. It was our oasis.

Thank you.

Monday, 5 May 2014

What we can learn from a child: Simple, but easily forgotten lessons

1. Appreciate the little things.

2. Don't overthink things.

3. Live in the present.

4. Less is sometimes more.

5. Don't be afraid to trust.

Each of these things I learned from Xavier. His strength and innocence before, during and after surgery showed me once again how precious the mind of a child is.

Thank you.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A passion reignited

Today I met a cop turned doctor who is aiming to revolutionize cold case investigations and a woman whose research is helping catch killers.

I learned about murders across Canada and a killer who evaded justice for decades after being presumed dead. And I learned how important social sciences can be in bringing more than fossils to the surface -- but also suspects.

That's what I call a good day!

Meeting fascinating people, visiting interesting places and most importantly, learning so many new things is the life of a journalist -- or at least the parts I miss most about my former career.

I have been out of the biz now for three years, but every time I get a chance to relive my former life I take it. My life as a freelancer has taken off again and I am once again loving the chance to interview and write.

Crime was my beat and is still my interest today. It makes seeing my byline again, now for a law enforcement magazine, is even more invigorating.

I like to find out how people tick, and I believe everyone has a story. I can feel the fire burning inside me again. It feels good.

I could use my blog just to tell my story, but because people are my passion -- I want to hear about yours. Got a story idea for me... pass it along.

Monday, 31 March 2014

A Deep Breath

The worst is over. Those words are like the soothing sound of a steady rainfall on a warm summers eve.
After almost two weeks of anxiety and fear of Xavier's brain surgery, I can finally relax. It is over and he is doing amazing.

This almost 5 year old kid has been through more than I have with 26 years on him. And still, he smiles, laughs and plays his little heart out. Not even a week after surgeons opened him up again, removed scar tissue in the 4th ventricle of his brain and took out a vertebrae in his spine, Xavier is walking, talking and just being a kid again.

This past week has been a roller coaster of emotions, but above all has once again shown me how strong my little boy is ... and how strong I can be when I have to.

There were moments when I thought I couldn't do this again - spend nights at his bedside in hospital, watch him suffer and see his painful scars. But with so many amazing people around me, and the extraordinary care by doctors and nurses at McMaster, I did it.

The experience, albeit horrible, wasn't like last time. This time when we left the hospital we knew we didn't have to go back for treatment. It was done.

Now that I have finally gotten the chance to take a breather I wanted to jot down some of the most memorable moments like the 20-minute tantrum to put a hospital gown over his pjs and when his big blue eyes lit up at the mention of popsicle!

1. The gut-wrenching, tear-jerking moment when Mark walked Xavier into the operating room and Xavier looked at me and said mom, I love you.

2. Sitting in the OR waiting room that we spent 12 hours waiting in 4 years ago to realize nothing had changed except a couch was replaced and the pop machine moved to a different wall.

3. Seeing the surgeon come into the OR waiting room and take us into the little room off to the side. This room is where we were told 4 years ago his tumour was wrapped around his brainstem making surgery extremely dangerous. Instead, this time, his surgeon was smiling and you could feel the high he was feeling after completing a successful surgery. They had found a complete blockage of CSF in his brain and were confident this would solve all of his symptoms.

3. b. Learning that Xavier had asked for his bee blankie after waking up before asking for mom or dad!

4. Running into the same staff that were involved in his care 4 years ago.. and them still remembering Xavier. One even came into ICU after reading his name on the surgery board as they were concerned why he was back in the hospital. Amazing! They treat so many children but still remembered him.

5. The feeling of sadness when Xavier was transferred out of ICU and into the chemo ward. So many memories came flooding back as we saw the nurses in blue gowns administering chemo drugs to babies, young kids and teens. I felt so bad for those families, knowing exactly what they must be going through.

6. Overhearing two younger parents in the washroom complaining about drama with their baby daddies and how they want to fight this person and that person. This almost made me sick to hear... their child has cancer and they are so consumed with their own lives they can't concentrate on what their poor child must be going through.

7. Xavier walking!

8. Going home!  

There are so many moments I could list including the night I spent with Mackenzie at Ronald McDonald House ...I missed her so much and the strength and maturity she has shown during this experience should be rewarded! She has been an amazing sister to Xavier since he came home.

In three months Xavier will have another MRI to determine how successful the surgery was. I am not worried. I know they did a great job and by then this will all be a distant memory.

I am breathing easier tonight.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Complacency and Invincibility

Today my mind is working against me.

We are two days away from Xavier's surgery and I find myself thinking about all the what ifs. This painstaking process (and yes it's a process of digesting and accepting what we are going through) is consuming me with horrifying thoughts and vivid images of what could happen while Xavier is on the operating table...again.

What if something goes wrong? What if the worst happens?
My logical self says this is not worth thinking about. It will never happen. Or we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

But that fear monster inside me argues... how do you know? I never thought it would be our child who got cancer. But it happened. So I need to prepare myself, so I can deal with it. (I am a control freak, can you tell?)

These thoughts pass through my mind as I watch the most recent developments in the missing Mayalysian plane: how many of those passengers passed off the routine safety messages, tuned out the instructions because in their mind, it would never happen to them.

Unfortunately, in this case, those safety procedures would not have saved them. However, there will be a time when these safety procedures will safe a life.

The same rings true when planning for disasters or even fire safety plans: "It will never happen to me."
Well, it can and it does.

I am not saying we need to live in constant fear that something bad could happen or consume ourselves with what ifs. But we need to be cognizant that we are not invincible.

We need to listen and actively engage in the safety education that's out there; Appreciate the information we are handed to prevent, mitigate or prepare for such things.

I have learned the hard way that bad things can happen to us all. We can choose to pretend it won't or we can come to terms with it and REALLY appreciate the current state of our lives. Because in an instant -- it can be gone like the lives of the 239 people on Flight 370.

Don't take things for granted. Don't be miserable and above all don't judge -- because you never know what that person may be going through. Live for today.

Monday, 17 March 2014

In a perfect world this stuff wouldn't matter

As our family anxiously awaits Xavier's surgery date, we are struggling with the range of emotions associated with another hospital stay.

Unfortunately, the sad and most stressful part of it all is the feeling of having to rush back to work. Not because we want to, but because we have to.

Even with the latest addition to Employment Insurance for parents caring for critically ill child, it is restrictive and difficult to qualify (like most programs to get money from the government). And it is only up to 55% of our wage (although I would take what I can get).

Then there is Short Term Disability through work. Again, very challenging to get and the constant inference from the insurer is almost not worth the effort of applying. Plus, it is not my disability. It is my son's. I am not sick. However, I could argue the emotional toll it has on my psyche affects my productivity at work.

And the last option: to use up all of my sick days, all of my vacation days and all of my leui days to ensure I am paid for my time off. But this option leaves me no time to get sick or be with my family when everyone is healthy.

I am not interested in abusing the system, but unfortunately because some people have chosen to do just that, the rules are strict.

Taking a month off with no pay to be with my son while he recovers would be a huge financial burden for our family. I admit, it's our fault to have put ourselves in such a tight position with money. After the first tragedy with Xavier it would have been prudent to save and nice emergency fund. However, we were also recovering from nearly a year of both my husband and I not working to be with our sick child.

And do I regret our family vacations? NEVER. As important as money is, the time spent together as a family somewhere away from the stress and reality of his sickness, is PRICELESS.

But the point of this entry isn't to sob about our money problems (because everyone has them), but rather to highlight the unfortunate reality that there are many others put in this difficult situation. When a child needs surgical invention for a serious medical problem or is very ill, a parent should not have to worry about short-term money problems.

It would be nice for employers to step up and say, "Hey, we are behind you and will support you. Take a few weeks (up to 3 weeks) and we will continue paying you during this difficult time."

I know I know, only in a perfect world -- the one I often daydream about -- would this actually happen.

Aside from figuring out the finances, there is also the logistics of the situation. Only one parent can stay overnight in the hospital. Mark and I plan to share this responsibility but where will the other parent go. Especially for night one neither of us would want to be far incase of a complication. In this case, we are hoping there is a room available at Ronald McDonald House by McMaster. And this accomodation wouldn't break the bank. Having to book a hotel while on a tighter budget would not be feasible.

Then there is where our daughter will go. Sitting for hours at a hospital would not be appropriate for a 4 year old, but we want her to feel involved. She is already saying she is going to miss her brother during his hospital stay.

However, these things are minimal compared to dealing with the emotions of a 4 year child who has been told he is going for brain surgery and another 4 year old who knows her brother is going for brain surgery.

Neither can fully understand the situation and while they appear normal during daytime play, subtle signs and frequent night wakings are a clear indication this is weighing on them both.

I would like nothing more than to take away their fears and concerns.... and pain. It's a difficult journey. I am scared too, and feel sick to my stomach thinking about it and everything that he and her have gone through during the inital diagnosis.

But we are a damn tough family and although it's not a perfect world, we will make the best of what we're given.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Surgery a must

My little superhero will have yet another chance to show off his super strength with a second brain surgery scheduled for this month.

Doctors informed us earlier this week that all of his symptoms are related to the fluid-filled cysts growing in his spinal cord. The cause: an obstruction in the flow of CSF in his head, primarily (or at least neurosurgeons suspect) in the area of his previous surgery.

It has been 4 years since he was opened up and a large cancerous tumour was removed from the back of his brain. But the memories and emotions of that initial surgery still feel like it was yesterday.

However, this latest news is not all bad. In fact there is a lot of positive.

First and foremost, it is NOT the cancer or any regrowth of the remaining tumour tissue left on his brainstem. He is still CANCER FREE (that sounds so good to say!)

Secondly, the surgery is routine. Albeit there will be an increased risk because the area has previously been operated on, but the surgeon is familiar with Xavier and his initial surgery. She has followed him ever since. (Dr. Singh is an amazing woman and we can't say enough about her expertise at McMaster Children's Hospital).

And lastly, the surgery should alleviate most, if not all, of the symptoms Xavier has been having recenly.

It was four months ago during his last MRI that the cysts had somewhat increased in size. At that time he was not experiencing any symptoms - so nothing was recommended.

Between then and now, multiple symptoms have presented. With no treatment, his condition could eventually affect his mobility.

We expected something (surgery is the only option) would have to be done. We just didn't expect it to be this soon. However, he is young and will bounce back quickly.

I am scared for him. But I know he can do it. He has endured worse and so have we.

The five-hour surgery will keep him in the hospital for about five days. And doctors are confident, pending no unforseen complications, he will have a full recovery and return to school within a few weeks.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

On tonight's menu: FEAR

Up until about 2:30 today, I was calm.

It was then that I had a conversation with the nurse from Xavier's endocrine clinic about some symptoms he has been having.

For days now he has been complaining about a headache - most of them first thing in the morning. Of course my first thought is the worst, given his history, this would only be a natural reaction. Pushing that thought aside to avoid jumping to conclusions, I pondered what else could be causing him these headaches.

I tested his blood sugars a couple mornings with my tester and found his sugars seemed a bit low to my standards. So, I told myself, thats all it was. Still cautious, I sent my concerns to his team of doctors at McMaster.

He has an MRI tomorrow, so no worries.

Until today when the nurse said his sugars were ok for a child his age and the headaches were concerning - especially since having gone back on the growth hormone. I told her we have an appointment with his endocrinologist next month:

"That's not soon enough. We need to see him this week."

My heart rate increased and I could feel my body warm up and my mind go to dangerous places.

This is our life. Fear.

I hate to cry wolf everytime Xavier has a symptom of any kind. But we just never know. It's an ongoing battle to try to live normal. Sure, the tumour is gone, the cancer treatments or over, but that experience has scarred me for life.

Now there's all the therapy, the treatment required to treat the effects of the initial treatments.

I am worried. I don't want to be worried, because there is a good chance it could be some simple explanation and an easy fix. But what if it's not?

It was just 4 months ago this same scary feeling fell over me. That's when doctors needed a closer look at his head and spine after his initial routine MRI. Turns out what they thought might be another tumour was the Syrinx cysts in his spinal cord. Still concerning and something to be followed, but we had no reason to act at that time.

Now here we are again. I just want to be free of this pain, this fear and worry. I want my little guy to not have so many doctors appointment, pokes and therapy. I don't want to have to tell him he had cancer.

And it's times like these, when I see a symptom present, that I struggle with how to handle it. On one hand, I want to rush him to the doctors and get it assessed ASAP. I am troubled with the guilt of not finding out about his brain tumour for months. What if I had only done this or done that sooner... I don't want to wait, but I also don't want to be a hypochondriac.

I will go home tonight and play with my kids and pretend like there is nothing wrong. But inside, I will be screaming.

This is my life now. But deep down I know whatever happens, it's nothing we can't deal with.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Some things never change

It's 9 p.m. and here I sit on my bed with a tube of chocolate chip cookie dough (I shouldn't be eating anything past supper), and self-reflecting. (In other words, making myself feel sorry for myself.)

I am reading through my old diaries...  again. And 15 years ago, I was doing this very same thing. Except it was with a bowl of President's Choice chocolate fudge crackle ice cream and with a pen and paper (not my laptop).

And I didn't have a flashing blue light from my Smartphone distracting me as I wrote.

It is March 10, 1998 and I write:

As the snow swirls around 
I gaze upon the beaming sun
My mind wanders upon thoughts
Thoughts I've never ventured
and some I may never want to
Others very deep and misunderstanding
I only feel challenged as to what to do next
No tears are shed from serious, sad thoughts
Nor smiles for grateful elations
I will wait and wait to feel something...anything 

I love how my entries are riddled with poetry. And even though some I have no idea what they are about, it still brings back a feeling - that emotional connection to my words from a long time ago.

Here's a funny one I stumbled on titled "Men"

Their playing minds
are in all kinds
The sweetest of all
can be so dull
When adventure rules
Their apt to be fools

Although many of these stories of a life I have lived are painful and sorrowful, I can't help but see the growth in myself through my words. The writing improves, my vocabulary expands and my thoughts and issues evolved.

But then again, I see how really nothing has changed. I am still me... the same me I was 20 years ago when I began journaling. It paints a picture of a girl struggling to find herself; suffering from bouts of depression; and finding that inner strength to overcome whatever the problem may be.

Whether it was boys, my parents divorce, my diabetes diagnosis, or my own self-destruction, I always retreated to my pen and paper and somehow, someway, with words on a page, worked through it all.

I often wonder why I keep my diaries, but since reading them again, I have relearned who I am again.
Just a woman struggling to find herself, suffering from bouts of depression; and finding that inner strength.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

My life in books

A random excerpt: 

July 5, 1997
Dear Shawn (yes I have names for my diaries)

"Here I sit on a hard cement block, but it is the most beautiful place in the world right now as I write in my diary. I am on the beach, the sun is setting and the waves are gently rolling in.

Maybe it's the place, or m
aybe it's just being away from the everyday life back home, but I feel at peace here. Last night I fell asleep so fast. It was the best sleep I have had in a long time, despite it being in a cabin with 6 other girls and God only knows how many creepy crawlies.

The night was silent. The sky was black. The only sound was the calming rhythm of the waves along the Lake Erie shoreline. It was there that I slipped away."

After that entry I found several poems written in a foreign handwriting. Not mine, but that of Geoff Hunt, a counsellor at Camp Oneida. (I am glad he signed his name there because I never would have known that)

He wrote:

If I knew what I want,
Surely I'd go get it,
But once it was acquired
It would get boring in a bit

Like a baby boy inept in play,
Using different toys day to day,
One, two, three, or four
Soon he will be longing for more

So where does it stop,
Where does it end,
To draw the line,
A good question, my friend

Wen we aren't, then we'll find out,
What life was really all about
Whether the money or toys we spent
Or if our lives made a difference!

There were more entries I will share later. It was an interesting find and I have no recollection of having him write in my diary.

Help for teen moms hard to find

Help for teen moms hard to find
I was happy to see this article about a woman taking the initiative to break the cycle of teen pregnancy. (

For as long as I've lived in Woodstock, I have heard about and seen all the teen moms pushing their babies in strollers down Dundas Street. (Don't tell me you haven't ... it goes along with all the shirtless men in Market Square as soon as temperature rise).
It's not a phenomenon in the Friendly City (although maybe our teens are getting a bit too friendly too soon here), but teen moms (parents) are everywhere.

But what I discovered recently in my quest to help a young mom suffering from depression, is that her options for help are limited. She is too old for youth programs (19), but still very much a child. With no job, a one-year-old at home, and only a high school education, she feels stuck, isolated, alone and unmotivated.

She can't afford counselling on her own, and the wait times for free services is several months. Her doctor has prescribed meds, but that's not the answer to her mental health crises.
It seems there are several resources for teens during pregnancy (Oxford County Public Health, Beginnings each have teen prenatal programs), but what happens after the baby is born?

Public Health continues to support the baby, and for children 18 and younger Oxford-Elgin Child and Youth  Centre (OECYC) can offer walk-in counselling.

But what about that 19-year-old girl. What happens when that young girl loses her friends because they don't have babies, when her family is too busy with their own lives to help. Even teen moms coming from fully supportive families must feel overwhelmed ... I sure did when I had my kids and I was an adult with a career. 

In an attempt to help this struggling girl, I searched for a teen mom support group or some counselling she could immediately access. While there are many support groups for new moms, there lacked any teen-focused groups (or at least we not advertised or promoted.) A teen, with no life experience, may feel intimidated to join a general mom group with married, divorced, women with jobs.

Oxford County Public Health does offer a home visiting program to help mothers and encourages them to use other community resources.

And apparently Beginnings offers a young mom support group during the week, however, there is not mention of this on their website. And again Fusion Youth Centre in Ingersoll is said to have a life skills program for new young moms, however, again no mention of this on their website.

As an educated and fully internet-capable indiviual who is connected to my community, I found it difficult to find out about any of these programs. How do we expect a struggling young mom to find out?

A better communications strategy should be developed to encourage and promote struggling young moms to access what is available in our communities.

They need guidance to build up their confidence to pursue their life's goals.

Disclaimer: However, it takes a young mom who is willing to accept help to get help!

***A program for teen moms in Tillsonburg area has been found! Avondale Church provides 2 hrs of free daycare while teen moms participate in a group session about various topics from mental health and nutrition to parenting and spa days! Lunch is served to the group on some of the days. No registration is required and it runs for 16 weeks.


Thursday, 13 February 2014

What did Health Canada expect?

What did Health Canada expect?

A few bad apples in the friendly city of Woodstock are giving a bad name to legitimate medicinal marjuana grow-ops after an explosion detroyed a home known to have a licence to produce pot.

Four people have been charged with drug offences following the fire on Alberta Ave last weekend. While still unconfirmed, the house was a legal grow-op. (I believe authorities are withholding this fact to use as evidence in the case.)

Under the licence to grow marijuana for medicinal puposes:

"A person is eligible to be issued a designated-person production licence only if the person is an individual who ordinarily resides in Canada and who
  • (a) has reached 18 years of age; and
  • (b) has not been found guilty, as as adult, within the 10 years preceding the application, of
    • (i) a designated drug offence, or
    • (ii) an offence committed outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would have constituted a designated drug offence."
      And further if the proposed production site is not owned by the applicant, a declaration dated and signed by the owner of the site consenting to the production of marihuana at the site.

      The legislation also stipulates the number of plants you can grow and amount of dried MJ you can store on your property. However, what it doesn't stipulate is any type of regular inspection of the premises or production methods.

Here's your free pass to grow pot. See you in a year when you renew.

There is a certain level of risk growing and producing marijuana. Should that not be assessed when issuing licences, especially in densley residential areas. The home on Alberta was known by Woodstock Hydro as an "approved high consumption" location. If an illegal grow-op is a safety concern for authorities, then why isn't a legal one?

Maybe Health Canada should have required regular mandatory inspections by local authorities? Fire Departments do regular inspections on numerous other facilities, require fire safety plans etc. It's a matter of prevention. Legislation should have reflected this.

Perhaps if this location had been inspected, they would have found evidence of some illegal production/activity... (although cause is unconfirmed, it is widely accepted hash oil was being produced out of this home).

And what did Health Canada expect... you give out meatless licences to produce marijuana to people in residential areas and think they will ALL stick to the rules.

We are scruitizized more over obtaining our driver's licences!

This week a public education campaign encouring students to clear snow from fire hydrants was shot down because of safety concerns. We worry more about the liability of that, than that our neighbours are given a relatively unregulated pass to grow an illegal substance.

I know there are legitimate medicinal marijuana growers and users (I know one personally) and I think they should have access to medicinal marijuana. And with proper inspections and "check-ins", production should be permitted.

These suspects (allegedly) abused their licencing priveledges and were doing far more than producing dried marijuana, but will undoubtably shed a black shadow over all - legitimate producers.

In addition to those charged, I think Health Canada was also irresponsible in handing out production licences in the first place... and to individuals living in residential areas. While I am not entirely sure of the details, I believe it is more difficult to secure a registration certificate to produce raw leaf tobacco -- a controlled, but legal - subtance in Canada.

Thankfully, tighter restrictions are coming.

"The Marihuana Medical Access Program ends on March 31, 2014. This is also the date that all Authorizations to Possess, Personal-Use Production Licences and Designated-Person Production Licences expire. As of April 1, 2014, the only legal access to marihuana for medical purposes will be through licensed producers under the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, even if you have an authorization to possess or a licence to produce that has a later date.
Effective October 1, 2013, to comply with recent changes to the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations, Health Canada is no longer accepting the following types of applications:
  • Applications for new Personal-Use Production Licences and Designated-Person Production Licences;
  • Applications to increase the number of plants associated with a licence to produce; and
  • Applications to change the production site address associated with a licence to produce."

Either way, the Criminal Code still states it is illegal.

Some other questions came to mind while reading and hearing the rumours surrounding this residence. Neighbours suspected it was a "drug house" . Different people were often seen coming and going. One person said cars had been smashed in the driveway.

Had these concerns been reported to police? If it was on the radar of the residents in the neighbourhood, was it under police radar? If so, it's unfortunate there was not enough evidence to allowlawful entry to the home.

Again, another negligent fire could have been prevented. Our emergency responders would not have been put at risk... and an innocent dog would not have died.

***My opinions are mine alone and do not represent any organization or place of employment I am associated with.  I do not pretend to know everything. I believe there is a story behind every story and information I am not privy to, nor know at this time.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

In just 3 minutes and 52 seconds, her life fell apart.

26 years of life shattered into millions of sharp little daggers into a heap on that cold hospital floor. Her long blond hair fell over her face as she sobbed uncontrollably.

Her hands cupped her red swollen eyes and quickly overflowed with tears.

Forever burned in her mind, were the surgeons words: “The tumour is wrapped around his brainstem. There is nothing more we can do to help him.”

Her body shuddered in shock. At that moment the world around her was silenced. Nothing existed but the pain that was ripping her apart from the inside out. Slowly tearing every organ, every fibre and every hair into pieces.

“Cassie, Cassie,” her husband cried.

1 year earlier

Her name was Cassie McIntyre. A household name in the City of Woodsro. Cassie was a journalist for the local newspaper, The Sentinel-Review. She covered the crime beat, chasing ambulances and fire trucks and hanging around the courthouse.

A fearless beauty with a passion for news. She would often describe herself as an adrenaline junkie.  

She had been with the daily paper for five years. Her life was her byline.

It was a Friday afternoon and the day was winding down. Cassie was on the weekend shift, but was eager to get out of the office for the day. She bit the end of her pen as she randomly searched the Criminal Code for any interesting charges she could write about.

Then she heard it. The scanner in the corner of the office crackled and buzzed out a loud tone.

“Attention Beachville Firefighters …” the voice on the scanner cut out.

“Attend a multi vehicle collision on highway 401”

She listened intently.

“Possibly 15 to 20 cars.. unknown injuries.”

With that she whipped the camera bag over her shoulder grabbed a pencil from her drawer and the car keys with her other hand.  

The weather was quickly deteriorating. Heavy snow covered her windshield within seconds. The snow laid a white blanket on the black asphalt road. Her tires spun. She pressed on.

She knew the highway would be closed, so she veered down a sideroad while calling her sources for information on the exact location. She parked the car in a snowbank in front of an old farmhouse and walked up to the front door. Without a second guess, she asked the homeowner permission to walk through their field to get to the highway. They agreed and handed her an extra set of mitts and hat.

Her heart pounded with excitement as no other media outlet had gotten access to the scene yet.

The snow was up to her knees in the field, soaking her skinny jeans that now clung coldly to her legs. She came to a wire fence at the edge of the farmer’s property and climbed over. Her jeans ripped. She carried on.

First jumping over a small stream, she headed up an embankment. At the top, she could see the highway littered with cars and emergency personnel. Now crawling to make it up the slippery, snowy hill, she was just inches from being the first to capture the devastation.

A siren wailed.


Limply picking herself up off the ground, Cassie melted into her husband’s arms. The young couple took comfort in each other’s embrace as they stood outside the waiting room in the operating room at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

Their 8-month-old son was on the operating table. He was in the care of two highly-acclaimed neurosurgeons .  

Just hours earlier, doctors had discovered a large mass growing in their baby’s brain. Cassie knew her son had been sick – he had been for months and doctors couldn’t figure it out. But she never expected this.

As she drove to meet her husband at the hospital, she told herself, I won’t bury my child. I won’t bury my child.

Her stomach sank.  

It was a cold February day. The second day to be exact. The day a cancerous tumour almost killed their baby.

“I can’t believe he is still functioning,” Dr. Wisenfell said as he examined the small boy before rushing him into emergency surgery.
Ever since I learned how to write, I have been writing.
I am not a professional, nor do I pretend to be. I am not an English major or a published author. I wrote the news for years (almost 10 if you count my years at my college newspaper).
But the benefit of writing for me is not for money; it's for pleasure. Writing makes me feel good.
Since I was 10 years old I kept a diary. I wrote down my thoughts, my daily activities and everything in between. It was my stress relief - how I figured shit out. I can trace every low point in my life to a time when I stopped writing for pleasure. Pen to a paper, fingers to a keyboard, I have to write. My sanity depends on it.
So, here I go. I intend on writing about my life, about stories I have swirling around in my head. And maybe share some excerpts from my diaries as a child. If no one reads this, that's fine. It's not for anyone else but me. But if they do, that's ok too. If I can bring a tear, a laugh or a smile to someone else's face through my words, I have accomplished something as writer.
Some of the posts may not make any sense, some may be blurbs I could use in a novel someday and some might be notes from my days as a reporter or just what's on my mind that day.
Whatever they are, it's my therapy. Leave your judgments at the homepage.