A Beautiful Mess

3 AM Monologue

I made a decision early this morning. 

At three am, laying in a tent with my sister-friend, I had a moment of personal growth. In my ten minute uninterrupted-monologue (thanks Kendra), I came to a realization that I am now entering a different stage of my life.

In the past 13 years, I have climbed more then 30 Rocky Mountains in Alberta and BC. 

I have slept more nights in the backcountry then I can count or can even remember. 

I have owned (and let off) hundreds of bear bangers. 

I have hiked over thousands of kilometers in this beautiful country with a 60 pound pack on my hips. 

I have been attacked by a grizzly bear the size of a kitchen and I’ve walked right into a cougar den high up in the alpine. 

And it has been a time!

 

But here it is - I am done.

Here I am admitting that I am no longer fearless. 

I’m ready to set boundaries. 

Last night was it for me.

3 AM rolled around and it hit me like a ton - I could hardly take a deep breath. The reality of the seclusion that we had put ourselves in made me want to throw up. 

To get a picture of our surroundings; we were a 1.5hr hike up a mountain to the car (oh. and it was a standard car!), a 3 hour drive down a logging road (and a really shitty logging road too) and no cell service until the nearest town (which was another few hours away).  

So there I was, wide awake in our tent, thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong, paralyzed in fear.

For those that know, Vancouver Island is cougar country and they are in abundance! 

And I heard them last night.

I felt like fucking prey out there. 

Somehow, someway, through monologues, prayers and cuddles the evening went on and passed on by.

Allow me to take a minute to thank the authorities for our safety. Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou!

 I guess I do pray, in my own way. 

This morning, on no sleep and no coffee, we hiked out the 7 km up the mountain with our 60 Pound packs all while carrying a couple coolers. (shameless plugin- I’m getting the coolest!).

In a torrential DOWN POUR! 

Jealous yet…? Hmmm…? 

:)

As I was loosing all my steam, digging deep, I couldn’t help but evaluate my strength. 

I have been on one hellofa roller coaster ride in the last few years. It has tested my physical and my emotional being to it’s absolute limits. 

And I’m still here.

I have nothing to prove to anyone or myself anymore or ever again!

I know my strength.

But this!?

Why would I deliberately put my fragile soul through all of this? 

Why would I do this willingly?

Because this used to be my life. I used to thrive at any chance to put that pack on and head into the wild. That was my happy place.

But now, this experience writes like I am describing some type of living hell.

I realized now, at 3AM, that I have been going backwards. I have been trying to stay who I was because of familiarity, because I’ve been trying to hold on to the past of healthy me, because I haven’t been accepting change, because of soo many different reasons. The list goes on.

But that’s not who I am anymore.

And I want the opportunity to be who I am now!

Because I am so proud of my change, I’ll say, I am pretty damn amazing these days. 

DON’T LOOK BACK, YOU’RE NOT GOING THAT WAY 

But accepting change? Admitting that you’re getting older? That you have become fragile? 

Letting go of who you were? Not being able to do the things you once loved? It only stings if you fight it.

Just go with it. 

Move where life wants you to move…

God damn, do I ever strive for a boring life! A Positive, simple, easy, wholesome, boring life! 

(with two dogs and a cat please!)

I love my 3 bookcases and getting lost in them. Cooking has become a passion because it is now my medicine.  I get nostalgic for scented candles, working on my garden and the beach. I love hugging my friends and telling them I love them. I love playing chess, scrabble or a simple game of cards with someone I can’t live with out. I love spooning my dog in her bed, sunbathing in the full sun. I love writing, it nurtures my soul everyday! I love my hour long yoga/meditation session in my living room surrounded by absolute peace and stillness. 

This is me.

I am no longer fearless. 

I want off that damn roller coaster.

This 3 am speech is the result of a three day camping excursion in cougar country. With a couple of my sisters, I went to see some of the worlds biggest Sitka spruce trees. 

And It was unbelievably beautiful! Thanks for the last horrah carmanah! 

Oh and please don’t misunderstand, we were never in immediate danger. I’m just trading in my corolla for a westfalia. 

#vanlife

It’s been three years tomorrow.  Holy time, slow down!  I still miss you like I missed you yesterday. I have given up the idea that That will ever change. I’m just living with it now, in a better way though, I promise.  Thank you for the last year, I couldn’t have gone through it all without you. In your own way, I know you were by my side the whole time…  What a fucking year! Im realizing now how much I needed it.  We’re always given exactly what we need but never what we want.  I do know better now!  Thanks for the lessons Jess.
I love you babe x #thetopofyourheadismyfavouritesmell #iwantourfacestotouchalldayonsundays #JDN

It’s been three years tomorrow.
Holy time, slow down!
I still miss you like I missed you yesterday. I have given up the idea that That will ever change. I’m just living with it now, in a better way though, I promise.
Thank you for the last year, I couldn’t have gone through it all without you. In your own way, I know you were by my side the whole time…
What a fucking year! Im realizing now how much I needed it.
We’re always given exactly what we need but never what we want.
I do know better now!
Thanks for the lessons Jess.

I love you babe x
#thetopofyourheadismyfavouritesmell #iwantourfacestotouchalldayonsundays #JDN

Took the 7 am boat to spend the day with this mega babe. He made me laugh, he made me cry, we sang poison ‘every rose has it’s thorn’ and then he surprised me with one of my favourite books I’ve been hunting for for 7 yrs. Kevin Brooks, I love you soo much. x 
(Sorry for the shit photo, it was an intense presentation).

Took the 7 am boat to spend the day with this mega babe. He made me laugh, he made me cry, we sang poison ‘every rose has it’s thorn’ and then he surprised me with one of my favourite books I’ve been hunting for for 7 yrs. Kevin Brooks, I love you soo much. x
(Sorry for the shit photo, it was an intense presentation).

This Song. 

I was reminded of it at 12:38 am last night and I got nostalgic.
I goes back years and years and years. 
It ties a lot of friendships.
It has a different meaning now, since I’ve known too many hospital beds,
but the message is still the same.
Someone, Please, Sing this to me..
x
You+Me+Renfrew=Magic

You+Me+Renfrew=Magic

Go build a fort in the woods

Do you ever close your eyes and think about your ‘happy’ place? The place that brings you calm, serenity and peace. The place that lights up your heart and soul from the inside out.

I do, sometimes even twice a day.
It happens when I close my eyes while I’m drink my green juice in the morning, when I meditate, when I’m running, when I’m working on my patience or even when I’m getting an IV put in…. 
It helps bring me down to that grounding feeling. 
Here’s the story of mine.
In 2003, I left the safeness of Ontario and moved across the country to the mountains by myself. 
I was 20, I was nervous and I was excited. 
I had just up and left my boyfriend of 4 years (sorry Thomas) and I needed a change. 
I needed to grow. 
I got to Jasper on a sunny, hot saturday night at the end of the month of May.
I’ll always remember this…
In the middle of the staff accom quad, the bus pulled up to over 60 - 20 something yr olds drinking and playing outside. Getting off that bus was one of the most intimidating things I had ever done up until then.
But as soon as I stepped on to the grounds, I saw Jess. 
Actually, I should say, I heard Jess. 
"Woa, look at her!!" (PG version)
Thanks for that Babe…. 
As I nestled into the mountains, meeting forever friends and getting comfortable, I met an australian girl named Tiff. 
This girl… She changed the game for me. I guess this is why, when I think of my happy place, she’s associated with it. 
We were inseparable, she became my best friend, like a sister. 
Day after day, I would climb thru her window (I never once went through the front door), we would smoke copious amounts of weed and make a plan on how to take over the world. 
And I believe we did. 
We took over our world at least.
Shoe Free Fridays? (This idea hurt as much as it sounds).
One morning (it was ungodly early, 6am?) we were going sky diving. Somehow, she convinced me. That was her, somehow, someway, she would make me see the fun in absolutely everything. 
My fear and reason wouldn’t ration the idea. 
I never questioned or doubted myself with her.
I believed I could conquer anything. 
 What a beautiful gift to give someone…
Thank fucking the authorities that my silent-sub-conscious prayers got answered and the flight was canceled due to bad weather. 
I just don’t do heights…
But we were up and we had snacks packed, so we decided to go for a hike in the woods instead while playing the left and right game. 
This is when you take a walk deep into the woods and at any given moment anyone can call Left or Right and you have to obey and change your course… 
It was super fun.
We definitely won the game that morning!
Not to far from the lodge, we walked right into a lake and a boat. When you are stoned at 7 am, finding this discovery is pure magic. 
We were stoked!
So we thought that getting into this random plastic dingy was a great idea, We made it ten feet out into the lake and the entire thing submerged on us. We were fully clothed. You can imagine how upset we were swimming back to shore realizing we had lost our one hitter. 
RIP Tony (because he was the boss).
Ahhh, the great sinking of 2003.
From that day forward, we decided to make it our mission to retrieve it. So we built a fort on the lake. 
To pass time.
Our fort, it became our sanctuary.
We had a lounge/bench where we carved our names and our invites names (the invites came much later in the game tho). 
We had a dock that led into the water where we would light candles on logs and watch them float on the lake. 
And then we had the fort. Ironically, we spent the least amount of time in the later. 
Every night, when we were deciding on how to take over the world, we would grab a 40 of Old English (the fort was later named OE) and we would sit with candles, cigarettes and a new one hitter (Tony part 2), talking simplicity. 
That was it. 
That was the big lesson that I had to learn.
She made things simple for me. 
She taught me how to make life simple. 
No matter what was going on in real life, I would ask her advice and she would always set it straight for me with just a few phrases.
That was the serenity of the fort.
At the fort, we were always ourselves, we were the raw version of us, the real version of us. 
I learnt to let go of all the fear I didn’t even know I was holding in. 
Fear about accepting who I was, and who I wasn’t. 
We laughed a lot.
For the fist while, it was just the two of us. 
Our friends and colleagues would ask us where we would sneak off to for hours at night, but it was top secret. 
Her and I, we shared the secret of what mattered that summer.
One day, that all changed. I don’t remember who was the first, but I remember it was by invitation. 
What followed suit, were invited guest to come share our secret world - Our simple world. 
Our fort!
Months went on like this, we grew, we laughed, we were silly, we were simple. 
Thats the way it went.
Days were like groundhog day, but it was one damn good day.
My favourite night that summer, was my surprise birthday party. The fort was busy with my favourite friends and the sun was setting over the mountains. Tiff changed all the words to Tom Petty’s “free falling” and sang me the best birthday song, while our friend Mitch accompanied her on the guitar. She is totally tone deaf.
It was Perfection.
At the end of July, I was working a late shift at the restaurant, and Tiff ran into the hallway crying. It was an awful sight. 
There was an emergency and she was moving back to Australia in a few days.
That was hard for me. 
I felt like I still needed her.
That night, we decided to climb the highest mountain in Jasper. /div>
the mountain is called Edith Cavell and it stands at 11033ft, we left the next morning.
 
We were finally, truly, taking over the world.
This is what we’d been training for.
We did it! Fourteen hours later, we were eating poutines on our stoop. Things changed for me on that mountain. 
I truly saw and understood how strong I could be. That no matter what, I could get through absolutely anything. 
And I have.
To this day, it is still the best day of my life.
I have that mountain tattoo’d on me and Tiff named her baby boy Cavell. 
That’s how much it rocked us..
The best quote of that day was ’ This will do for now, but we have to get back to the fort’ Tiff ‘2003. 
Hahaha, she still makes me laugh.
We wrote in the top-of-the-mountain capsule, that we would meet again August 3 2011.
Tiff made it, I didn’t. 
Jess died a few days before she was supposed to pick me up for our road trip from Vancouver to Jasper. 
It took me awhile to forgive him for ruining that for me. 
It was a day that I counted down for 8 years.
I still haven’t seen her since 2003.
It just occurred to me that this piece was set out with an intention on writing about the fort, but it took a turn into describing one of the most influential friendships I have ever had. 
Tiff came into my life for a reason. 
She holds a huge part of my heart.
Unfortuanetly, life, it gets in the way sometimes… It takes over.
But 11 years later, twice a day and when I need serenity the most, I close my eyes and think of those summer nights at the fort.
And for that moment, I remember what its like to be simply free.
Thank you Tiff ximage

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Mcfly ! I could use a time machine right about now. #playahermosa

Mcfly ! I could use a time machine right about now. #playahermosa

Chemo Room

Its a bit late for this, but for months I’ve wanted to share my thoughts and experiences on the chemo room. 
It is such a special place and it took a huge part of my heart. 
I developed feelings that I never knew that I could have. 
That room taught me the true meaning of compassion. 
It was a big lesson that I’ve had to re-learn after loosing Jess.
When you enter the Cancer agency, arrows point you in the direction of the waiting room. 
Out of all the waiting rooms I’ve sat in in the last year, this one takes it. The intensity alone would make anyone want to run for their lives! 
Some people just can’t sit still. 
Some people are using any activities to distract them i.e.- books, iPad, fingernails.
Some people are just straight up terrified and have the most horrific look on their faces.
I was all three of those types. I observed, I people watched, I chewed the inside of my cheeks, I re-read paragraphs of my book 17 times and I was straight up terrified.
I always strived to be zen about it, at least I tried too.
In the waiting room, there’s a donation boxes full of scarves, hats, toques and head covers. They are homemade and they look like they were knitted by someones grandma, it’s sweet.
(and thinking about grandma’s is comforting at least.)
The waiting room provides complementary peppermint tea but it’s clear everyone in there just wants a whiskey neat.
As I’ve sat there impatiently waiting, the volunteer eventually calls my name  (I go by Elie at the hospital) and she/he escorts me to my lazy-boy recliner, my chemo chair.
Que - Tragically Hip: The Luxury. 
Back to the volunteers…
They are astounding. 
They are outpouring with compassion, love, patience, understanding and sympathy, and I’m not exagerating .
Their job is to make you feel ok in the most NOT ok situation. What a hard thing to do! And they don’t even have to be there! They are there because they want to be there for you. What a concept, right?
I truly believe that some people are sent from the ‘authorities’ (my version of god) to make the world a bit better, run smoother,  control chaos and perhaps teach us about love along the way - Pure, True, Selfless Love.
These beautiful people will bring you peppermint tea and a warm blanket every 25 minutes.They will help you walk and get around if you need to stretch it out. They will get you a snack if thats what you need. They will smile at you when you need it the most or just sit with you in silence and hold your hand.
Angels. 
The room is quite large, it holds about 25 recliner chairs, all open and all facing each other so we can watch one another.
Intense yet?
There’s 25 Patients and rarely an empty chair.
Curtains are provided, but in my four months I never saw the curtains drawn around any chair. 
The chemo room, and it’s unlucky members, share a bit of a secret code. We’re all strangers but we have the most important thing in common, the will, the desire, the fight to live.
When diagnosed with cancer, no matter which stage, grade, type, you are given an expiry date. Without treatments you are told that you are going to die, really soon.
You have that power to say - No, no more treatments, I choose to die.
But this isn’t the case in the Chemo Room, we’re all fighters. We are all super hero’s.
I’ve made unlikely friends in that room. I learned that in your most difficult situations, it is never the worst. There is always love, laugh, friendship, for those who want to see it. You just have to open up your heart.
As I settled in my chair with my book, tea, sister, a sense of ease and relax came over me. Every single time. 
Because as soon as that IV started,  it meant that I was closer to my end date.
That’s what a chemo patient strives for - the end, the last chemo treatment. Sitting in the room, you know exactly which 4-5 people are on their last treatments. Their smile - it’s Powerful. 
They have the most accomplished, positive, energetic glow around them that you just want a part of, but you know your time will come. 
I learnt the meaning of patience in those four months.
I can’t write which session was the hardest or easiest, they were all the same. The drug itself is exactly what you would imagine, but worst. There’s over 2000 different types and recipes of chemo drugs, no two are the same. One of mine (I had two) hurt. I felt it going into my veins, it was awful.
I consider myself extremely lucky to have had such an amazing and beautiful life! When I think of the happiest times of my life, there’s so many to choose.
I spent 8 amazing years with the love of my life.
I climbed the highest mountain in the canadian rockies with the most amazing, inspiring lady.
I cheated a grizzly bear attack with my two siblings in the back country 
I got to live with my mom, as an adult, and truly become best friends with her.
The list is endless… 
But on that list, in the top five, is walking out of the Chemo Room. I will never be able to accurately describe the sense of relief, strength,  accomplishment all mixed with a bit of nausea. And it was powerful. 
As much as I hold that moment as one of the best days of my life, as much as I hold that room as one of the best places on earth,  I never want to go back.
xo

It’s and Eat Pray Love Situaish

Costa Rica was magical. 

I meditated, I re prioritized, I smiled ALOT, I wrote aggressively, I had more then half a dozen ‘out loud’ conversations with myself… But before we get into the magic that is Costa Rica, It’s obvious to me that I need to discuss what brought me there in the first place.

A few weeks ago, I was given my mortality rate on a pie chart. There’s something to be said about an afternoon like that. I was told honestly, sternly and seriously - Cynthia, if this cancer ever comes back, it is no longer curable (Sorry, Brutal).

Seriously. 

It’s safe to say, I had a rough couple weeks following that afternoon.

What are you supposed to do with information like that? Go back to the life you had? Constantly reminding yourself that it was that life that gave you cancer in the first place.

How do you make every day count when your expiration date might be a few birthdays away? (Again, Sorry. It’s brutal but it’s how it is.) The famous question - What would you do if you only had 1 week to live? Think about it. Personally, I fucking hate that question (so much it deserves a swear word).

I cried for six days straight, I didn’t sleep, I was lost. 

Finally, at 3 am one morning, I decided that Costa Rica would help fix things. 

I never thought that going to a foreign country by myself was on my list of things to do. Until I did it. 

And I recommend it.

There’s something you gain from displacing yourself from all familiarity, and being with just yourself. 

As a ‘cancer survivor’, it’s challenging to try fit in with normalcy again. I’ve been sheltered for an entire year in a radius of ten kilometers. Picture it. And then add over 50 hospital visits.

It’s different, it’s hard, I’ve lost a lot. Self assurance, confidence and even some friends too (but that’s a whole other blog post of it’s own). 

I needed to go re learn some things, to re-calibrate. 

But more importantly I needed to go re-fall in love with myself.

I didn’t have much of a plan for this trip. No google, no lonely planet, no recommendations, I was purely going on instinct. It was the best way for me.

I had no expectations therefor I had no disappointments.

 My plan was plain and simple- don’t do the same thing twice. And see a sloth but that didn’t happen.

After 13 hrs of travel, 4 planes, re routing and delays. I made it. 

The heat hits first, At 930 pm, it was still 30 degrees. 

Second, the breeze. I call it a breeze but it’s more like baby tornado wind. It’s gentle but it’s powerful.

Third was the smells, they were nostalgic. Everywhere I went, the breeze would carry strong scents of the sea. Or far away, a farm would be on fire because of the dry heat and the burning of the wood would smell like the sweetest incense. And of course, the bbq’d meat from the street vendors that would fill up the afternoons. And the intoxicating smells of the jungle, think of the rainforest but even more! 

If only I could have brought back all of these scents as a souvenir…

I know I didn’t give it any justice, how can one write accurately about scents?

I should have probably learned a bit of spanish before I left, but I didn’t. For the record, I’m now learning, every sunday I only txt in spanish.

To the Magic that is Costa Rica.

The people are beautiful, and I mean inside and out. Tico’s have a way of being-  La Pura Vida! which is to be admired. Its meaning can be interpreted as living full of life, blissfully. Living a life the way it’s meant to be lived, sans stress.

Perhaps I chose my destination for this reason?

To accept how life is and make the absolute most of everything you have, with a smile on your face.  

It was beautiful, It was refreshing. 

Playa hermosa (means Beautiful Beach in spanish) was my favourite. I was really happy to be there. White sands, seclusion, good book (divergent don’t judge me) a few veg burritos and a couple of beers in my brand new pelican bag! (it’s worth a mention because it’s that amazing) I was set!

Five minutes in to my walk on the beach, I get stopped by the only person i see. 

“ You careful. Girl walk alone on Beach- Not safe!” He says in a very heavy spanish accent, shakes his head, points at his eye and walks away.

My response “Well what the fuck!” 

He didn’t turn around.

I don’t know if I was scared or pissed off that he had just tried to set the tone for my day but i was definitely frustrated. I can say, this was the only time in my travels that I felt a bit nervous..

Thankfully, It only lasted an hour. I was extra cautious but i settled into my beach routing quite nicely. I met some super nice locals, and even shared a few beers with a captain. I beach combed, swam in the sea, hiked along the shore, it was a great success!

I learned that Love and gratefulness are the only two things that truly matter. Let go of everything else, it’s holding you down. Fear is the only thing holding you back from sharing the two most beautiful words in the universal language.

In my time traveling around, I  heard Micheal Boltons greatest hits three times. In the grocery, at the bank and at a bar.

All of the times, I smiled hugely because it reminded me of my parents circa the 80’s. It reminded me of innocent times.

Playa Ocotal, what a little Gem. 

Nestled away in a local part of Guanacaste, It’s the only beach I visited where the sea was green! 

Black sand from volcanoes border the water, it’s stunning.

There’s an effect that salt water has over the psyche; it’s calming, it’s reassuring, it’s cleansing. Salt water is always the cure.

It was a beautiful day. 

I went for a swim and a babe from Vancouver followed me in. We were chatting, flirting, and then I started swearing like a trucker…

I got stung by a jelly fish. 

Him and I, we got tight real quick.

We were a long drive away from anything, anywhere and I was in excruciating pain. There was only one solution. 

So after he peed on my leg, we got drunk. What else could we do?

It makes for a good story, but a few weeks later I’m still dealing with the repercussions of that damn fish. 

I had more then a half a dozen conversations with myself. I’m in a transition that takes more character building then I ever thought I could do. (Again)

To compartmentalize all the change, the acceptance, the love, the gratitude , the letting go, I have needed time. I will need time. 

One day, in the ocean, I spent an hour floating on my back and repeating to myself “ I HAD cancer” while pelicans dive bombed all around me. It was magical.

I need to get used to saying it, just as much as I needed to get used to saying  ”I have cancer”.  It was powerful. I realized, in my time away, that I still have so much learning to do. I still have so much accepting to do.

I’m going to take my time, I won’t rush things. Building who you are, learning who you are, should be done gracefully and with patience. I’m looking forward to it.

As I finish writing this writing, I’m on a plane on my way back home. With more self assurance, more confidence, more ease, a better perspective, more love, more joy, I’m excited. 

And I just realized that I do smell of Incense, the jungle, BBQ and the sea. I am bringing it back! And it’s nostalgic.

I am very Happy.

xo

This is happening. 
I’m going to write a book or two.

This is happening.
I’m going to write a book or two.