Thursday, June 29, 2006

Emma Goldman Kingston (aka Golden Breeze Lady Emma Delight), b. July 17, 1992, d. June 29, 2006.

I am grieving an old and dear friend today.

By L. (age 38) and S. (age 8):

We miss Emma because:

1. She loved kids and always protected them, even when they didn't need protecting.

2. She was so affectionate with us.

3. She thought her name was "Beautiful Dog."

4. She enjoyed a good tummy rub.

5. She was the most stubborn dog we've ever met. From the time she was a round little puppy carrying tree branches, she did things her way.

6. She lived until she was almost fourteen and still loved us.

7. She once ate a dozen chinese buns and was so full she could barely stand up.

8. There will never be another dog to replace Emma.

Friday, June 23, 2006

mushy and queasy

It has been brought to my attention that my last couple of posts have been a bit over the top. I am completely unapologetic about this. Years ago, my spouse said to me that I always describe the people I love in terms of superlatives. Can I help it if my family and friends are all gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful people?

I just feel incredibly grateful for the all the love and support that people have shown since this cancer nightmare began. It is because of my friends and family (and some complete strangers) that I have found the strength to get through the worst of the cancer treatment.

Despite how hard many things are right now, I have moments where I can't believe how lucky am.

Last chemo completed yesterday. I feel pretty crummy today. This is the last time, though, and that does make it easier.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

once more unto the breach

Tomorrow is my last chemo.

I have not written much in the last few days because I have been too busy spending time with my kids and being hedonistic in my spare time.

I have spent my time with people who fill me up - make me feel good about myself and fortunate to be in their presence.

A lovely dinner Friday night with three amazing women. I am awed that they think of me as their friend.

An extended week end with my friend L. Spending time with her is like a balm. I don't have words for how wonderful she is. We met on the first day of an impossible class in university. I walked up to her and said, "You look like someone I would be friends with." This was totally out of character for me and the best thing I ever did.

I spent most of today with my friend B. We went for lunch, engaged in a little retail therapy (cancer presents: new clothes that fit my chemo-bloated body. I feel so much better about myself) and a facial at the spa. When I told B. last January that my biopsy had confirmed that I had cancer, she said, "This is a campaign and we are going to win it." B. is a formidable woman. When she says things like this, I believe her.

On another note entirely, it turns out I am not as much of a hypochondriac as I thought I was. My oncologist took one look at me this morning and said, "Your eyes are irritated." It turns out irritated, runny eyes are a common symptom of chemo, especially near the end. I feel vindicated.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

for a very good dad

Today's blog is dedicated to a wonderful father.

I love you, my dear spouse. You have exceeded my expectations of a partner, father and friend in the fifteen years we have been together but never more than in the last six months. The boys and I are very fortunate to have you in our lives.

Happy Fathers' Day!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

the hardest thing i've ever done

There is a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with knowing that I have almost completed chemotherapy. Nothing I've ever done has been as hard as this.

I am stronger than I thought I was. And tougher.

I know that I still have one more horrible chemo and the grind of radiation (not to mention Herceptin treatments every three weeks for a year) but I just realized today that the worst really is behind me.

Breast cancer has cost me a lot, physically, mentally and emotionally. I have not stopped being angry that it happened to me (and to other women, in frightening numbers). I have, however, gained a sense of my own strength and the confidence of understanding what it means to be a 'survivor.'

I know that others have always seen me as confident but I know how often I avoided challenges or situations which made me feel scared or intimidated. I think that will happen far less often in the future.

It's not that I don't expect to feel frightened or intimidated. It's that I know I can face those fears. I've written before that I did not anticipate how much of the fight against cancer is mental. I now know that I am brave enough to face a life threatening illness and strong enough to survive treatment with my optimism and sense of humour intact. There are very few challenges that now seem insurmountable.

That is the gift my cancer has given me.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

portrait of the insomniac as an eight year old boy

After tossing and turning (and a few tears of frustration), S. finally falls asleep on his bedroom floor.

Monday, June 12, 2006

bald hypochondriac

I never see other bald women when I am out in public.

For the first several weeks of being bald, I kept my head covered in public all the time. Then it got hot. And I got sweaty. And the hat or scarf started to slide around on my head.

I just don't suffer in silence very well, so I've started taking off the head covering and offering up my head to the elements (or rather, to the air conditioning. I do keep my head protected from the sun).

The first time I exposed myself like this, I was out at a nice restaurant with friends. I felt naked and acutely self-conscious at first but became gradually more comfortable. My friend B. said afterwards that there was at least one woman in the restaurant that night, hot and sweating in her wig, who was wishing she had the confidence to do what I had done.

I wonder if that's true. Given the cancer stats, there should be many more bald women out there. I'm not particularly brave, nor do I enjoy drawing attention to myself. I just don't have a high tolerance for discomfort. Am I violating some taboo I didn't know about? Where are all the bald women?

On another note, the depressed immune system from chemotherapy is exacerbating my not-so-latent hypochondriac tendencies.

My spouse took my youngest son to the doctor last week with a suspected eye infection (another child had been sent home from day care with an infection earlier in the week and D.'s eyes were suspiciously puffy), which I became sure he had given to me. All morning I complained of itchy, watery eyes. I figured it was just a matter of hours until the infection would blind me completely.

I was stunned when my spouse called to say that D. did not have an eye infection. He had a mild case of tonsillitis. My eyes cleared up immediately.

At least I can't become convinced that I have tonsillitis, too. I had my tonsils out when I was eight.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

going bald

On March 18 (after the first round of chemo), I shaved my head. The wisdom of others (and my own gut) told me that, even though I had very short hair, it would be infinitely easier to have it fall out in bristles than in thick clumps. I was right.

It turned into a bit of a party. Who knew so many people would want to watch me shave my head?

My friend L., who sports a tattoo under that now-conservative hair cut, did the honours. I don't think he was expecting it to be a performance but he took it all in stride. And he donated the clippers. What a guy.

No going back now...

We had a wonderful evening. And I think it made the whole going bald thing much easier for my kids, as well as for me.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

random thoughts

There are trees in the cancer centre where I go to receive treatment. Real ones. They built the building around them. They're a little spindly but I love that they're there.

There is no rhyme nor reason to what I want to eat, after the first couple of days post-chemo have passed. This round it's shrimp soup, spaghetti, my spouse's super-high-fibre granola bars and soda biscuits. The first couple of rounds it was chicken soup and pita. I think about food a lot these days and the pleasure I know I will get out of it when I turn the corner. My appetite tends to come back with a vengeance about 10 days after chemo, and, every round, I have killed the time lying in bed imagining the things I am going to eat when I feel better. I also love that so many people have fed my family over the last several months. The impact of this food has been a source of sustenance that is much more than physical.

My cyclical funk has set in. Too much time to think and too little energy to do anything or concentrate for very long. The lingering effects are relatively minor (mild nausea, lightheadness, foul taste in my mouth, fatigue and the surgical aches exacerbated by sitting still) but they serve as constant reminders that I have cancer.

I did not fully expect how much of fighting this disease would be mental.

A poll of the medical staff at the cancer centre confirms that my new-grown fuzz will likely fall out again before chemo is done. It's OK. I only have one more round to go.

Monday, June 05, 2006

friends don't let friends knit stoned

So I picked up my knitting needles yesterday evening. This is always a sign to me that I am starting to climb out of the trough, but I think I may have been a little optimistic.

I am knitting a garter stitch shawl (for non-knitters this means that I knit every row, over and over, gradually increasing stitches until I have a shawl), so I figured that even though I was feeling pretty stoned from all the chemo drugs, the pattern was simple enough that I should be able to knit away without screwing anything up.

I was wrong. I will now have to spend more time fixing my mistakes than I spent making them. Sigh.

Someone step up and stop me before I do this again, OK?

p.s.: For my knitting readers (and I know you're out there), the yarn is from Fleece Artist, in Halifax ( and I am knitting with the Goldilocks. You can see why this is going to be a huge pain to tink (knit backwards) and redo, even if it is just a couple of rows.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Toxic Nation

I'm not really up for writing much today. Instead I provide you with the following link:

Food for thought, no?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

chemo day

The gorgeous woman pictured above is my sister. She is coming to chemo with me today. This picture was taken at my head shaving party. I didn't plan for a head shaving party, once just kind of happened and it was wonderful. More on that in a later post, but I do highly recommend to others that shaving your head makes the inevitable hair loss much, much easier to take.

I have had someone different come to each chemo appointment with me. Each session lasts more than three hours, so this companionship has been incredibly important (In fact, I would also advise cancer patients to bring someone with them to most appointments. It is common to find that any info provided is forgotten as soon as it's heard unless you have someone to take notes. Just as important is having someone to help you find where you're going and to keep you company while you wait).

Each person who has come with me has been special to me.

My spouse came to my first appointment. It was great to have his wry humour and our shared sense of the bizarre as we took in this experience for the first time.

My friend J. drove me to the second chemo. We work together and have always really liked each other but chemo gave us the time to really get to know each other. I feel like our friendship has become richer and more intimate.

D., one of my oldest friends, came to chemo number three. We both lead very busy lives and don't see each other as much as we'd like, so it was lovely to have this uninterrupted time together. D. stood in for my sister at my wedding (my sister was working Japan at the time). D. has always been very important to me. I also have to stay on her good side; she has my power-of-attorney (I call it 'power to pull the plug') should something happen to both my spouse and me.

My friend H. came to my last appointment. We had really just found each other as friends when I found the lump, yet she was one of the very first people I told. She has been one of my most important sources of support throughout this experience and continues to exceed my expectations of friendship. She has also injured herself prior to each appointment that she has attended with me. Not sure what that's about.

B. will be coming to my final round of chemo. She is a true force to be reckoned with and a wonderful friend. B. puts the same energy into coordinating a political campaign as she did into coordinating friends to come to appointments, make food for my family and provide support in so many important ways. She also really knows how to have a good time and has helped me to remember how to have fun during these last few months.

I really am a very lucky person.