Kristal

This site is about my experience with cervical dysplasia, as well as anything else I might feel like discussing!


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Camp, it’s not just for kids!

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This weekend (in fact, my birthday weekend) was spent enjoying the hospitality of Camp Kindle, thanks to a partnership with Survive and Thrive.  You may have even heard about it in the news. As many of you already know from my blog, young adults fall between the cracks in cancer care.  There aren’t a tonne of resources, or support (personal or financial) that’s easily found.  Cancer is often viewed as a disease that affects only the old and very young children, someone in their 20’s or 30’s just cannot be a cancer patient!  This attitude may not seem like much to a normal person, but it’s detrimental when young adult cancers aren’t studied for their specific complications, or there aren’t places for young adults to get away and connect with others like them.

That’s where groups like YACC and Survive and Thrive are critical.  They provide a place for young adults to connect with other young adults affected by cancer.  It doesn’t matter what stage, or what kind of cancer, or even if it’s early days, everyone has a story and wants to connect.  All twenty five of us got to do that this weekend.  Below, is my impression of the weekend.

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The camp started on Friday night.  After setting up our beds, everyone pilled into the “living room” of the Jack Perraton Lodge to talk about what we hoped to create that weekend (as that was the theme, create something).  Soon, only a small group was left, and we sat talking until later that evening.  I love those kinds of conversations, ones that don’t feel forced or contrived, just straight conversation that gets to the heart of a matter.  I found that happened a lot this weekend, we would meet often in that room and just talk about anything bothering us, just “getting” what we were all feeling.  I’ve often said that I feel the one thing cancer does is expose people to a new way of thinking.  The regular bullshit and pettiness of the world is melted away, and what’s left is someone who is honest, but kind, and knows what they want.  Time and time again, that was proven from this amazing group of people.  And they reminded me again that I do belong, and that I can contribute to others healing and wellness, that I am not just someone complaining when I have nothing to complain about.

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There were the usual games, good food (Tim Tam slams), craft time (which is  where the above beautiful card was made for me, along with the picture frame below), and general silliness many of us lack in our daily lives.  It was too cold for most outdoor activities, though people did go out for a few hikes around the beautiful grounds.  It’s still the conversations that draw me back, and remind me how necessary retreats or weekends away from the world are.  I’ve often been told by people that I spend too much time thinking about cancer, and that it can’t be good, but the exact opposite is true, going to a weekend like this I think not only more positively about my pre-cancer, but I actually spend more time being happy surrounded by great people.  We can talk about anything, and no one looks at you weird for talking about “uncomfortable things”.  I really appreciate that the group that runs Camp Kindle reached out to Mike and Bonnie (creators of Survive and Thrive) and allowed everyone such a great, relaxing weekend in a supportive environment.  I hope they keep this partnership in the future.

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I know I wasn’t the only one sad to leave.  Quite honestly, if I could stay there with these people indefinitely, I would have.  Cancer or not, we all just seem to connect, and I think we could make an amazing community, the kind of community the world needs more of (I know, kind of hippy of me, but it’s true!).  I don’t often get to celebrate my birthday with a big group of people, and I was very lucky to this year.  I got hugs, best wishes, and told good things about me, which helped to silence some of those darker voices inside.  I won’t soon forget my 37th birthday, that is for sure!

Again, thanks to everyone involved, Camp Kindle, Cassie, Lisa, Maureen, Mike, and Bonnie!  And remember, if you are needing a stunning venue for an event, Camp Kindle could be available.  It’s how they help fund some of the wonderful programming they provide to young kids, and now (hopefully) young adults.

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Team Underwear Affair: Be a part of something (I hope) will be huge!

Today, is one of those days I struggle, and I won’t say what, or who, may have caused that to happen.  Instead, I am going to focus on something really positive, Team Underwear Affair for the Scotiabank Marathon.  Last year, as many of you may know, I got a team together to participate in the booty hunt.  We had such a good time, and raised a lot of money.  We were hoping to do this again in 2015, but it wasn’t to be, as the event was cancelled.  I decided, after speaking to someone at the Alberta Cancer Foundation, that the next best option was to participate in the 5K walk and run (admittedly, the 15. 6km we walked last year was a bit much for some).  We could still dress up, be loud, and bring attention to cancers no one likes to talk about.  It’s not just about raising a lot of money, but making sure people are comfortable talking about their experience.  I’ve learned that my being outspoken has helped quite a few people!

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Since then, I have been toying with a lot of fundraising ideas, that now seem to be possible as realities.  I’m looking at setting up a floor hockey department fundraiser in the next few months, and tonight I am meeting with some amazing people to talk a bigger fundraising event.  I am so humbled at the offerings of help, some from people I’ve only talked to on Twitter.  I am really keen to learn about fundraising, and how to be a better event planner, so this is a win overall.

As well, there are so many people who have offered to join the team.  I’m not sure what the final total will be, but I’m hoping it’s big enough to catch the media’s attention.  It’s quite sad that the Underwear Affair doesn’t exist anymore, but I do believe it will continue on for some time through the Marathon.  If you are interested to join, or to donate, please follow the link below.

Team Underwear Affair


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2013 in review

Okay, so it’s not like I actually believe that each year can be only good or bad, or that I should hope the next one is fantastic, as life is too random to be one thing.  Though a few quiet years would be nice as I’m already the girl with the heart condition, bad knee, who almost developed cancer this year.  I think that is more than enough for life altering challenges.  Some of the things that stuck out in my memory are:

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– Buying my first home!  Now, I’ve owned homes before with my ex-husband, but this home is mine alone (and he can’t do things like move all the furniture around, or plot with his mother behind my back in it).  It was a struggle to get the bank to realize that I was not a crazy risk being single, but everything else worked out okay.  I recently was doing some after Boxing Day madness shopping and I purchased a number of kitchen items, magic bullet and a crock pot, which was really enjoyable (Yes, you are correct in the assumption that I don’t get out much).  It’s a slow process getting my home functional, but once I have my new floors in this summer, I can really start adding more furniture and make this my sanctuary.

-Calgary,  the city amazes me in good and bad ways, but this summer the world saw the good ways.  The floods of June 2013 will never be forgotten, and if we focus on the community spirit and the volunteers who helped clean it up, then I will be okay with never forgetting.  We came together not as friends and family, but as a whole city, and everyone worked together to get our city back to working order. It was really inspiring to watch, and helped me focus on more positive things in general, which was something I really needed.  Even during terrible times, great things can happen, and focusing on the good can really help with depression and anxiety.

If you want to read more about the floods: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Alberta_floods

-In February 2013, I started a new job.  It unfortunately happened right around the time I was diagnosed with cervical dysplasia, so I’m really not sure how I kept it all together and got work done. Realistically, I was mentally breaking down, but maybe having a good job was what kept that last shred of sanity intact.  It’s a busy job, and I’m in a room full of extroverts (very introverted myself), but I again feel that strong sense of community, like people care, and like I really belong, which is something I have been searching for in my work for a long time.  We have a lot of fun, and everyone has been very supportive of me,  so I expect even with all the craziness that I will still be there in another year. 

-Social media, Wow, its really changed my life.  I have met so many great people through twitter, and I am learning so much from them about blogging.  I know I have SO MUCH to learn, and my grammar isn’t perfect, but I really enjoy the exercise of writing, and I hope to continue in the future.  I love the connection I feel through social media, and that it allows me to participate on my terms, and believe me when I don’t want to be around people physically, you are immediately very aware of that.  My hopes for the next year are to improve my writing, increase my followers, and increase my presence online in regards to below the belt cancers, and get over my fear of self promotion. It’s okay to put myself out there to the world, and to be selfish in wanting some attention, and at the same time hopefully help some others in that process.

-Dysplasia  I’ve been through some tough experiences in my life (divorce, heart condition, fractured knee, abuse) and maybe I will blog about those experiences one day, but the cervical cancer scare was the worst of them all.  I was on edge almost the whole time, anxious, alone (even with my great support group), and afraid, so very afraid.  Now that the abnormal cells have been removed, and I am feeling better, I am trying to move on, but it is not easy.  Don’t let anyone tell you it is easy to move on, or that you are being  overly dramatic, since you caught your condition early, because it’s not easy.  I still have two more appointments with the clinic in the future (more if the abnormal cells return), and at some point I may have to face this battle again with cancerous cells showing up other parts of my reproductive tract, but I am really trying not to focus on this, and instead try and focus more on being in the moment, and on being positive.

-Someone who I have had a very up and down relationship with, is no longer a friend.  I have had to finally realize that I can’t keep looking for the good in some people, if I cannot accept some of the terrible decisions they make in their life.  Or that when they are appearing to help me, they are in reality just trying to bully me and get back at past hurts.  Sometimes you have to move on, and sometimes you have to allow people to destroy their own lives, or even their own morality.

-Family.  This is a tough one for me to talk about, but after the procedure my family put me through a terrible ordeal, and because of it I have distanced myself from them.  I’ve always felt that we tried to act like a family, do family things, but we don’t like each other at all, or have anything in common, so we fail at this play-act.  As well, there are a number of issues from my childhood that will never be truly resolved as they do not see them as problems, though I have moved past them.  I am currently taking some time to really think about what I need from my family, and even what is a family really….can it not be made up of people of my choosing?

That’s what stands out in my memory for the past year.  There were some really amazing tv shows, movies, and books I read, but they weren’t anything that really defines me, or changed me. To everyone who has been there for me this past year, thank you.  I really needed the support, few know how truly messed up I was this past year, and some of you really carried me through the worst of it.  Like I said, I’m too realistic to think that next year won’t come with challenges, but I hope they are normal ones, like my fridge breaking, or that I got one too many colds this year.  I’m kind of tired of going through my nine lives at a rapid fire pace!

I’m not one to make resolutions, but I did think that having a few goals would be nice, so here they are:

1) I want to try Peking Duck.  I always meant to try it, but always forget, so this year I will enjoy Peking Duck!

2) I will learn how to use eyeliner.  It can’t be as hard as I make it look.

3) Travel.  I’ve been thinking of a trip to Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, but I also wonder if I should try and add a trip in to the Eastern Seaboard, or even London, as I have a few people I know there now to make it a really fun trip (and I think they would be totally game to “hunt down” Benedict Cumberbatch!).


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Connecting through social media

This is going to sound a bit silly, but I realized tonight that I don’t like it when I “lose” a friend through some sort of social media.  It’s not a vanity thing, but more that I hate losing a connection that could hold potential for the future.  Someone I thought I had little in common with, can all of a sudden become closer, due to a shared experienced.  Now, had they dropped me during the quiet time, that connection never would have happened (or if I wasn’t as vocal as I am about everything, we wouldn’t have realized the connection!).  I moved around a lot as a kid, until we finally settled in Calgary permanently.  I thought about my former friends a lot, but it’s hard to write letters to 40+ people a year, and still have time for the all important childhood experiences.  Once I discovered Facebook, all of a sudden I could track down these people, find out how they were doing, and occasionally share something with them.  After 20 years of separation, do we have any common interests, or goals? Quite often we don’t, but I still like knowing how these former playmates are doing. Do we have to talk a certain number of times a month to be friends? No, not at all, why set a limit on friendship?  Staying connected with those I’ve met through work has found me jobs, and so when someone I know through previous work decides, “I don’t really know this person, so I will just un-friend”, I think, “Well, that was rash, who knows how we could help each other in the future?”.  It just feels sad to lose connections, and realistically looking at myself, maybe I am a bit nosy, and too concerned with understanding other humans (I am trained in archaeology, with a background in psychology)….is there really anything wrong with being like that?  In a world that is becoming increasingly distant and cold, shouldn’t we strive to use that technology that increases the distance between us, to instead bring us closer together?  Connections, even ones with assumed little importance, can one day become very huge in your world, especially if you have any medical issues.  We don’t even realize how lucky we are to have social media, previous generations never had the ability to stay connected with so many people, so easily. So next time you think, “I should un-friend that person, we hardly know each other”, maybe hold off on that, or at worst limit their availability to your profile, because you just don’t know what they might mean to your future.  


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The end of my social media course…and the past few weeks

Today I handed in my final assignment, and it feels like a weight off my shoulders.  I hope I will do okay, but I really struggled to finish it this week, as I just feel really tired and uninterested in things.  It’s the same reason I haven’t been keeping up with my posting on the blog, even though there have been a few exciting announcements and things I could write in an article. It’s not like I’m depressed, but I think I am dealing with a bit of dysthymia.  I still enjoy seeing my friends and getting out, I just feel a bit drained, and after what I went through in November I’m sure no one would be surprised at how I feel.  All I really want to do is stay at home and watch shows on tv or netflix, it’s nice not having to speak to anyone for hours.  This behavior normally wouldn’t trouble me, but I really need to get back to my regular routine at some point, which included gym visits, and getting out for walks.  It’s weird though, although I have the all clear on my biopsy containing any cancer, I still feel like I’m waiting for the next round of this battle.  I know that I can’t do that, but as my doctor says “We can’t spend all our time worrying, but at the same time We can’t h just ignore the situation either”.  I know I just need some time, and that I will move on, and maybe one day I will learn my abnormal results are back, but at the same time…maybe that won’t happen. 

So tonight, I am going to enjoy some amazing homemade Egyptian food, in the next week I will attend parties, and otherwise my plans include having fun with my close friends.  I’ve never enjoyed the holidays, but I’m determined to enjoy this one. 

Side note: I hope to remain in contact with many of my ADL 310 classmates.  I really enjoyed getting to know you, and reading your posts.  I hope we all continue to blog!  I didn’t realize how wonderful social media could really be, or how it would connect me to so many new and interesting people. 


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Thoughts on posting and creating the video

I meant to post this earlier, but I had an internet malfunction that couldn’t be corrected due to a last minute trip to baby sit my friends twins (that’s a story in itself).  I’m really pleased to see the quality that was produced by my class, though I still don’t know how I feel about my video.  It could be that I didn’t really have a standard that I could compare to for someone of my technical skill, and the amount of time it seemed to take really frustrated me.  If I had something to show or teach, I think I would have enjoyed it more, but I did learn some valuable lessons about the power of videos in social media.  It took me way to long to write, produce, and edit a 2.30 min video, so much so that I actually wanted to quit and take an F.  Taking and F is something I never consider, even at the worst of times, as I love to learn.  I felt that what we have all done is more suited to a final project, as in we could have taken a whole class on visual media and slowly built up our skills so that we felt like we knew what we were doing.  I worry that my negative feelings may prevent me from ever attempting this again, even in Talking Head format, but hopefully that won’t be the case. Like my classmates, I am finding podomatic a poor choice for uploading, and I’m not sure if I should pursue sites where I pay for this kind of service, as my tech skills are quite low and I can’t always tell if it would be worth my time and money.  My sound quality was much better when I recorded it, and I thought it was ok when I transferred the file, but what probably happened is that I had listened to it for so long in editing that I could have “heard” it in my sleep.  I did find podomatic better for our podcasts, so maybe the extent of its use is audio and not visual?  Cost is also a factor when you consider the recording equipment you may need, and I’m not sure I am ready to buy a quality microphone as of yet, but I can see how it is necessary if you will produce videos all the time.

Did I learn anything positive?  Well, I have learned that there is a distinction between the various kinds of video, and that some are suited for professional use, while others are for personal use.  I really feel that power point is best to convey a business concept, or teach something step by step that isn’t complicated, and it looks great for professional use.  It also allows a business to remain professional and keep a distance between themselves and their customer, and no matter how much I am told social media breaks down that barrier, I think it still exists in some form. I think talking heads and “how to videos” are better for more personal use or small home business, not that they can’t be used by a bigger business, but they impart a feeling of intimacy and helpfulness that really allows you to get to know someone, and will have you coming back to learn more.  This is what I find with the YouTube video I posted of Lauren Luke’s makeup site, you listen to her talk, see her friendly face, learn something and think I would like to experience this again.  I also learned that I need to take more classes in not only video production, but in writing skills as well, so it has prompted me to look into classes in these areas.  Shama Kabani is right, it is the most powerful social media tool out there, and it’s also the one fraught with the most troubles and a high failure rate, which is not a coincidence in my opinion.