Proud, Excited and Thankful List: 2013

It’s evening here in Hungary, and we’ve just come from a lovely day at the Vienna Christmas markets. There’s nothing like a whole load of Christmas lights in the dark to make you think of the holidays and year-end magic. So that’s what I did today, and now I’d like to think about what I did this year. This post is for a reflection of gratitude before moving forward to 2014.

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Hello from Vienna!

What I’m proud of:

1) The novel. There are so many aspects of this that challenged me, and I’m hugely proud to have faced that adventure at full-tilt, along with incredible support from you all. Seriously, I feel like I won an Olympic medal for ‘putting yourself out there, then creating something awesome from the experience’. Can I award myself a medal, or would the Olympic committe protest that? Maybe a gold-foil chocolate one instead.

2) My husband. Zsolt shines in many, many ways. I’m proud of his looking forward despite a year where he was laid off, felt displaced, and learnt his wife has stage four. This guy is pushing forward and acts as cheerleader supreme. I’m so incredibly proud of him.

3) Becoming involved with VanierNow and writing people’s stories. One story that really shines that I wrote is about Erica, the not-an-artist.

4) Getting up in the morning, getting dressed, and living my life. I’m very proud of this. I do it for myself, for my husband, for my family, for my health – I do it because life is better this way.

5) Recovering my grandmother’s furniture to give it new life. I sewed those slipcovers myself, baby! Lulu would not be impressed with the quality of my sewing, but I think she’d like the sentiment.

6) My work with Facing Cancer Together and Sister Leadership. As I said, it’s an honour to share people’s stories.

What I got excited for:

1) My husband, this blog, my friends,  and my family who always make me smile and have great times when we are together.  (We’ve drank about a swimming pool’s worth of tea during our chats, eh?)

5) Water. Last year we bought ourselves our dream canoe. This year we used it. We also found a nearby swimming hole that – despite one nibbling fish – makes me feel so happy inside.

4) This article in Apt613, and then this article in Apt613. It’s such an honour.

5) Travel. This year, we travelled through the Alps, wandered around Zurich, saw Christmas lights in Vienna, took a train across a mountain top in Italy, went up the leaning tower of Pisa, spent time in the beautiful city of Pecs, looked for bears in the Rockies, rode a 2-person bike in Stanley park, and spend much time downtown Ottawa doing our groceries.

What I’m thankful for:

1) My husband, because he sees me breakdown about every day, and he somehow finds it in himself to put me back together. So, I’m thankful for him and the magic we have together.

2) My Mom and Dad, who have been taking on the world on top of pushing me forward to push back against cancer.

3) The hug my best friend gave me on the day I was told about those spots in the lungs.

4) You and You and You! I love to see people do well and live well, and luckily enough I get to mix with people online who seem to feel just the same towards others.  The amount of talent you have, creativity, compassion, humour . . . it’s such an honour to mix with the mixers online. And thank you for your enthusiasm around my own big dreaming, too!

4.5) For the huge generosity that was shown during the Kickstarter campaign. It has been a great support in our life, and a good help with my health costs too.

blow my mind5) Camille of Sister Leadership has been coaching me through some very big emotions, so for that I cannot express enough how thankful I am.

6) I am thankful for writing. My writing gives me a sense of purpose like nothing else. When I wrote that story about Erica and featured her art – that is what it’s about. When I write little stories that makes my husband smile, that is what it’s about. When I imagine worlds that are seemingly impossible and yet happen in my imagination then fall onto the page – this is what it’s about!

IMG_0761 copy7) The beautiful photo shoot my friend Lou of Lou Truss Photography did for me and Zsolt just after I had been diagnosed again.

8) Each deep, beautiful breath of air. And for my lungs easing up on the pain, thank you so very much lungs and body.

And that is me for 2013.  I hope there’s much more to come for 2014. Like, say, Claire Never-Ending becoming a Canadian bestseller? How can I make that happen? What about the dream cottage in Balaton? Plus, more sharing of stories, more writing of fiction, more supporting of others, and loads of health heaped over that happiness.

**I’d love to hear some of your most proud/excited/thankful moments from 2013. Want to share a moment, or even a blog post? Feel free to link them in. :)**

~P.S. I have been trying to learn about making cool newsletters (as opposed to boring ones), so signed up with MailChimp & added a sign up app on my facebook. I’ve heard that newsletters are good for sending out little excerpts/nuggets people wouldn’t normally get elsewhere from your work. So if you’d like to sign up for my writing newsletter, I’ll do my best to throw in some ‘fresh for you’ fiction in the mailer! Maybe a Little Zsolti story, or some short spin-offs from Claire Never-Ending. Let me know what you’d like to see :)

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

This weekend is thanksgiving in Canada, and I’m writing this post today because I’m so incredibly glad for the occasion. It’s a little bit ridiculous to be so glad for thanksgiving, particularly since my family long-ago gave up on the turkey and cranberries and mashed potatoes in exchange for Indian food . . . but the weather is just so lovely, and it’s always a pleasure to get all together. I can’t help feeling good about giving thanks.

YEAHA friend of mine recently said to me that it’s great to be a big dreamer, but even better to be a big DOER. And she’s so totally right. I love to imagine sunshiny weather when it’s raining, but it’s even better to actually get outside when the sun does shine (I say while looking at the window and typing on on computer from inside the bedroom – okay, from between my bed covers.)

So I dreamed about self-publishing my book, and now it’s really going to happen. (I wonder if I dream of it getting accepted by some huge publisher, if that would happen as well – I guess the lesson here is to actively make these things happen.) I dared to ask people to help, which is actually rather intimidating – so I don’t know how Terri of A Fresh Chapter manages it time and again.

BUT you know what?  Last year at the Mirror Ball in Toronto that raises funds for Look Good Feel Better and Facing Cancer, the hostess said something about asking for money that was so insightful and so valid, I still remember it. Tracy Moore stood up there on the stage and said that people suggest it must be hard for her and Sherry to go about asking for money during the night. But no, she asserted, it wasn’t hard to ask for money because it was going to a worthwhile cause – helping women navigate the emotional hurdles of cancer. It’s not hard to ask because the intention is good.

So that’s something I’ve kept in mind. Now, with the kickstarter I feel much less entitled to ask because while the intention is good, it’s impact is also small. There’s just me and my book. Though I really hope it resonates with those who read it, and that is how the impact can become larger – hopefully!

But anyhow, all that aside, today I’m thankful for being a DOER. It’s not easy, but it’s happening.

I’m also thankful to feel so much love and support. It is amazing. And I really mean it, too. It was amazing (Causing great surprise or wonder; astonishing) to receive such an outpour of support. Now we’re putting the book together bit-by-bit. I ordered more material for the tea towels yesterday, and am receiving edits, and have the cover with Ian, and am trying to learn more about ebooks (with some advice from Opal Carew). It’s overwhelming, it takes all kinds of time, and it’s fantastic. I’m grateful so many people gave their support to this happening.

* I am grateful for my breath. Air comes in and out of my lungs, and I love that sensation. Ever since the doctor said “there are spots” I have had trouble in my chest. Trouble like pain, wheezing, etc. Whether it is psychosomatic or cancer-related, I don’t know exactly. All I know is that it is uncomfortable, and comes on and off. The past week or so I’ve had some strong wheezing, and living with that sensation is truly challenging. Today the wheezing has backed off, and I am grateful for the ability to breathe in and out without that internal crinkling sensation. My mom gave me some drops, and I did some steaming stuff – honestly, I don’t know what helps, but so long as something helps, I am so incredibly grateful.

I am grateful for the tears, because they are easier than the stress.

I am grateful for butter chicken, which I’ll be licking of my  plate in a few hours.

I am grateful for family and friends and love.

I am grateful for an apartment that has been repaired. The handyman came by yesterday (and is here again today) and pulled out all our cupboards. Oh my goodness! You should have SEEN the MASSIVE holes behind our cupboards. So  of course the neighbours’ smoke was pouring into our apartment.  I am not grateful of an inconsiderate neighbour who won’t take his smoking outside. But if I talk too much about that my wheeze will return. Let’s just say that the holes are fixed and I am glad.

And last but not least, I’m grateful for this blog, for the leaves falling from trees, for my husband’s beautiful smile, for the tea we drink each morning, for the sunshine through the window, for hot showers, for friends and family, for the cottage we’ll escape to later this upcoming week, for the support I’ve received in all kinds of ways, for chocolate chip cookies made without much sugar (little bit of coconut sugar) and no grains or gluten . . .

You know what else, I’m grateful for feeling happy right now. It doesn’t always happen, but right now I am – Thank God – feeling good.

So Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful day whether or not  you are celebrating the occasion.

~Catherine

P.S. My “Catherine Brunelle Writes” facebook page has a very small number of likes. It was pointed out that maybe I should give it more attention, so if you are in the mood for a little “liking” (and want to follow writing adventures with pictures, thoughts, etc), please do click here and like the page. Thanks!

Am I not paying enough attention to cancer?

Okay, so yesterday I spent my entire Friday in front of the computer webcam making a video. It was a heck of a lot of work for something that is totally basic – but there was the editing, the lack of a script (my dad taught me in elementary school to never public speak using a written script . . . so instead we’d write points and I’d talk around those ideas . . . and then in high school during my debating club days, it was the same situation. So yesterday, I figured I’d ‘go natural’ and just talk. Four hours later . . .), and then of course the editing of my rambles. But it was SO worth it. The final result is open and honest, even if not fancy. I reckon open and honest come first when asking people to fund your project.

Okay, so the reality is that in preparing for this kickstarter campaign, even though I’m a wee bit overwhelmed with its growing requirement of commitments and work, it’s freaking FUN.

I’m having fun.

And it was realizing that last week that scared the crap outta me.

During an interview with a fabulous local blog, Apt613, on the kickstarter book project, I was asked about how I could jump into such a big project with the news I’d just received? You know, where do I find the energy? And my only answer for that was that this is my energy because it’s my joy. I’m also kinda worried about what happens next once this goal is realized (with your help!). Where does that energy go?

And then the other day a neighbour said to my mom that she’d “heard your daughter isn’t doing well.” Which is fine, and so understandable. Except that I am doing well. For someone in my situation, I’m able to walk, there’s been no chemo as of yet, I have my hair, my energy is good, I can breathe . . . I am doing very well.

Screenshot!

Screenshot!

But having had these questions, they must have lingered in the back of my mind or something, because the other day I had a big pause moment where a feeling of panic suddenly overcame me:

  • Am I in denial?
  • Am I not thinking about the cancer often enough?
  • Is it going to blindside me again, because I’m not paying enough attention?
  • How often should this be on my mind, should I be scared? Like, right now and today, should I have fear?

Because when I work on my book publishing goal, those feelings . . . that fear . . . it kinda just turns off. Is it a good thing? Or am I being naive?

Last week I had a coaching session with this lovely lady named Camille Boivin. She’s from Ottawa and I work with her for her company Sister Leadership. Anyhow, Cam is full of generosity and a desire to help people connect with their emotions and ambitions. And when the cancer came back, we started working together not as client and writer, but as coach and person-who-needs-some-emotional-work-done. (That’s me.)

So last week in our session I was talking about this anger I’d been feeling. And somehow that discussion of anger turned toward a discussion of sadness. Because along with that anger, I was feeling deeply sad (and still do sometimes, like when I realized last week I wasn’t feeling shitty enough). So we honed in on that sadness. Cam asked me to look back over my life when I’ve felt similar feelings of sadness.

*In this case of metastatic cancer, I’d say the sadness isn’t just about the disease, but more so about potentially leaving my husband behind and hurting my family and friends. The idea is completely crushing.

So I began thinking back in time when I’d felt feelings of loss and sadness. School graduations. Ends of summers working abroad. Moving to a new country. Saying goodbye at airport. Leaving a beloved workplace. Losing my golden retriever . . .

And then Cam asked me this: “If you could go back with what you know now, what would you tell yourself in those moments of sadness?”

And I said to her, “that even though it hurt, good things were coming . . . and love doesn’t stop just because you are separated. The love keeps on going.”

Because from school graduations came new schools, clubs and friends (and I just attended the wedding of my first friend ever – we may not be together always, but the love stays); end of the summer working abroad brought me back home where I found a bookstore job and made more friends there (though I’ll always love the Jasper Kids from 2002);  In moving to a new country I left my family and best friend, but learned oh so much about being independent and made such incredible friendships with people who I still carry in my heart even after returning to Canada; saying goodbye at the airport always means I get to say hello to someone on the other end; leaving my work gave time and space for me to become a writer; and losing my dog – well, that still hurts but the love doesn’t fade. Not one bit.

So I guess if I could go back to those moments when I felt that sadness, I would just tell myself that I’m not leaving the love and by moving forward more good things are going to happen.

Since that conversation I’ve felt a lot less angry, a lot less sad. I’ve been to doctor appointments, blood draws, chemo wards, searching for clinical studies, urine samples, meds from the pharmacy, acupuncture . . . but I’m not grieving the Catherine of four months ago who was almost certain she was cancer-free.

Today I am here, and I’d rather run forward toward whatever good can be created. This kickstarter is part of that. Being proactive in my health is part of that. Not being sad has been a result of those reflections.

Is it normal? Will it stay forever? Is it denial? Is it really because I haven’t met with Dr. Canada? I just don’t know.

How often should I think of the cancer, and will it do me any good? Again, I just don’t know.

It’s so strange to wonder if I’m not fearful enough. I also realize I’m new to metastatic cancer, and therefore incredibly naive to its realities. Is there a right way to cope? I would actually really appreciate hearing other people’s experiences with this fear vs. life thing – is there any use in holding fear close? I’ve been happier this past week than I’ve been for a while, and that is quite precious in these times.

Anyhow. That’s all I have to say about that.  Now, back to work!

~Catherine

P.S.

To not overwhelm you with blog posts, I’m going to slip in the second excerpt from The Adventures of Claire Never-Ending. Meet Elizabeth (Amelia’s mother) and read her story here! If you want to sign up for an email notification when the project launches, you can do so here.

liz