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Try That In A Small Town

Rural living isn't for everyone. In fact, 80% of the population of Alberta lives in an urban setting, leaving only 20% in rural areas. Although Athabasca is "rural" it still feels very much close to the city in my mind. In 1hr 15 minutes, I can be at St. Albert and 2 hours to the Edmonton Airport. These commutes are quite short really.

The tradeoff of not living in a city and its many conveniences is the deep sense of community that runs through our town. Having lived here for 23 years now it feels like home. Access to health care can be a challenge in attracting doctors to a small town however the city is experiencing a similar crisis.

When I walk into the doctor's office I can say hello to nurses whose babies I've held in BootCamp and I know when they look at me they see a person, a person whose outcome matters to them.

Finishing my River Of Hope Paddle (watch video). in 2021 I was overwhelmed with so many people coming down to the riverfront to greet me at the end of a 663 km 10-day paddle from Jasper To Athabasca.

People I didn't know showed up to cheer me in. It was surreal. This type of feeling is carried forward when you have been part of a community for a long time and contributed to it while living there. Cities have their own microcosms within it but you can remain anonymous if you wish.

Walking down the street people stop me and ask how I'm doing with genuine concern and caring. Sometimes I can barely get out of the grocery store after visiting with different people while shopping. This connection is imperative to a strong sense of healing and well-being for humans.

Who has your back when you're down?

I have received many messages and in-person thank yous for writing so openly about this journey. I hope it's as informative for you as it is cathartic for me to write. Gratefully and unfortunately it has connected me to women I wouldn't have gotten to know so closely.

It's a gift in a trap, you're so thankful to be a support and resource, yet you wish you didn't have to be. The staggering amount of women that have been recently diagnosed in our town of 3,500 people is shocking. I don't have a theory on it, it is what it is sadly.

Last night tossing in bed during the wee hours of the morning the thought of whether I was making the right decision regarding not wanting radiation was on my mind. It's playing with your own life.

Trust me I've done some soul searching through this...

My percentage of survival over 10 years is 98% without chemotherapy and with Tamoxifen. No chemo; great. Next up do I want radiation? No, I do not. It only increases my chance of survival by 5% and Tamoxifen increases it by 4%. The risks of radiation are lengthy in description. If I needed it to save my life I would take it, but I don't.

I chose not to have it, which is not "standard care" for this cancer that has spread to one lymph node. They blanket you with radiation and Tamoxifen. But why would I for 5%? The versus-reward ratio isn't worth it. The radiologist phoned and basically set me free; essentially saying good luck, get mammograms and check yourself. It's odd how if I was in the study they would have "closely" monitored me for life, but with my own autonomy, it's like good luck you're going to need it.

Today I received a message from a woman in town reaching out, she was the recipient of my mastectomy pillows as she goes in for surgery soon. We met for tea and the synchronicity is not lost on me of this fortuitous meeting. While chatting away I said I refused radiation (the phone call was during our tea) and she agreed that after having been through it before choosing not to if you don't need it was a wise decision. BOOM! Thank you universe.

I am thankful for the care I have accessed each time an obstacle in recovery pops up.

Cording is a common ailment that begins after a mastectomy. It's when the scar tissue forms and inhibits arm movement through the connective tissue.

Noticing this beginning a couple of weeks ago it was puzzling as I had a full range of motion it just felt tighter to maintain it. I asked my physiotherapist Rachel Humprey in St. Albert Leading Edge Physiotherapy for help and she referred me to her colleague at the Edmonton Gateway Location. Shoutout to Rachel for the phenomenal care healing my back pain!!

Christy Pederson is a physiotherapist cancer specialist with regards to treating lymphedema and healing from a mastectomy. In one session she made huge gains in manipulating the scar tissue and showing me how to move the lymphatic fluid myself. This type of professional care is available at the Cross Cancer. However, it's a triage system where someone who is having trouble swallowing from chemo jumps to the head of the line (rightly so) versus me who has a mild seroma.

It is costly to pay for private physiotherapy, along with the trips to Edmonton to access these services but let's circle back to small-town life. Quiet spaces to heal in, people who know your name on the street and people who care. Driving is a small tradeoff for these in return.

I'm hoping to return to work soon, I miss my grumpy old men co-workers and the oilfield life. Cold days and all. There is a freedom driving on backroads in the oilfield which in itself is its own community of people. I'm sure it'll be a tough transition I'll have to ease into, being up at 5 a.m. is going to be a shock!

We also booked a trip to Europe to see our son in November! Fly to Paris and then commute to Germany. I've never crossed the pond before, can't wait.

Sending You Love N' SUP,

Lisa Stocking

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