Friday, November 30, 2007

a few days off

NaBloPoMo is going out with a bit if a whimper this year.

I am off to hang with Jacqueline and take the scissors to some of my clothing.

I won't be back until late Monday night and (are you sitting down?) I am not bringing my computer.

I'll be back next week, though, with lots to blog about.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

good kind of frantic

Short post to meet my NaBloPoMo commitment tonight.

Tomorrow, I am off to NY (Brooklyn, actually) to hang out with Jacqueline!

I'm so excited, I can't stand it!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

i've got nothing

It's November 28 and I nearly forgot about NaBloPoMo.

Go read Sara, she's written an interesting post about, um...penlights. And walking. It's more interesting than I am making it sound. Honest.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

a balm for the stressed out, cranky soul

I had lunch today with four very beautiful women, three of whom I had not seen in a very long time.

We laughed.

We vented.

We talked and talked.

When I left the restaurant, my step was much lighter than when I entered it.

And that good feeling stayed with me all day.

I am not letting another year go by before I see them all again.

Monday, November 26, 2007

family pictograms

Tonight, when 4 year old D. was going to bed he said to my spouse:

"I know which door to go into at night because I have a D. on my door. And a hockey player, because I like hockey.

You should have a 'p' for Papa on your door and a butterfly because you like butterflies (last night D. came home and declared that he didn't like butterflies because 'girls like butterflies.' My spouse replied that he liked butterflies. Clearly this made an impression on my young son).

Mama would get an 'm' and a boy because she likes me. No. She loves me. And her picture should be a heart, for love.

And S.(his nine year old brother) should have an 's' and a zombie."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

please explain the pedagogy behind the practice

My son has the same French teacher he had last year.

All they seem to do is memorize short stories and put them on as plays. Each time, a significant portion of their mark is based on their costume. Exactly how does it evaluate a child's progress in French, when you mark them on the quality of the costume that their parents are able to put together?

What's more, a classmate of my son's was assigned the role of a girl in one of the plays from last year (there are more boys than girls in my son's class). Since the girl in question was a contemporary eight year old, the boy playing the role told the teacher he would wear a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. He was informed that if he did this, he would be given a failing grade; he needed more of a 'girl costume.'

I went to the presentation. We saw the same short story presented several times. The boy who had wanted to wear a t-shirt and jeans was wearing a poncho and a headband. The other boys playing girls wore frilly dresses, ridiculous wigs and hats, spoke in high-pitched voices and flounced around like the worst possible 'girly' stereotype.

If the message that this teacher, a woman, had wanted to convey was that being a girl is to be the object of ridicule, then she succeeded.

There are four girls in the class. I wonder how all this made them feel.

And, how exactly is all this helping these children to become bilingual?

Tonight we scrambled to pull together an opera singer's costume. Don't opera singers perform in the costume of the opera in which they are performing?

We just tied a silk scarf around his neck and grabbed a flouncy velvet jacket from the dress-up box.

It will have to do.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

in this for the long (hopefully very long) haul

A few random facts about my life as a cancer patient:

I have treatments on Tuesdays (two weeks on, two weeks off).

I always feel better by Saturday. Much better. Almost as if I'd never had treatment at all.

The chemo regimen I am currently on makes me feel crappy but is NOTHING like "make you bald and bloated and unable to tolerate light, sound or motion, so sick you cannot ever imagine feeling well" first six rounds that I went through back when I was first diagnosed (and we were still going for a cure).

I will be in treatment for the rest of my life. This is (hopefully) not a short term thing.

Going over posts from this time last year has served to remind me just how scary things were then. And how much better they are now.

And if you ask me on a Saturday, I will almost always tell you that life is really very good, indeed.

Friday, November 23, 2007

i bore myself to tears

As a deadline approaches rapidly (and I fit writing around parenting, recovering from chemo and oh, procrastination), I have become convinced that everything I have ever written is trite babble that no one would ever want to read outside the context of this blog.

Please don't try to convince me otherwise.

If blog content is especially lacking in depth these past few weeks, it's because I have been busy staring at the computer screen and not writing.

Perhaps I will really torture myself and do NaNoWriMo next year.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

the view from here

J-Dog was not impressed with me taking pictures through the back door as he waited to come in.

Pretty boy.

Pretty snow.

I could have waited a few more weeks for the white stuff, though.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

one of my heroes

From today's Globe and Mail:

South Africa's retired archbishop Desmond Tutu last week told the BBC he was ashamed of the church for its attitude toward homosexuals and blamed Archbishop Rowan Williams for not demonstrating the attributes of a "welcoming God."

"If God as they say is homophobic, I wouldn't worship that God," he said.

I do not believe in a god. I do however, believe in the power of very good people to effect change in the world. Bishop Tutu is one of those people, a man who believes that human rights should apply equally, to everyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the evil in the necessary

A few hours ago I felt wonderful.

Chemotherapy sucks.

I know it's saving my life but I don't have to love it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

what jacqueline said that made it better

Recently, someone who ought to know better, a professional to whom I had turned for tools to deal with fear and anxiety, said to me, "People who spend their lives saying that everything is a 'pain in the neck' often find that that is where they get cancer."

My eyes widened. My tone sharpened. I asked, "Are you telling me that I got breast cancer because I had negative feelings about my body?"

"Well, I am not talking about blame here. But many people who grow up hearing negative things or thinking negatively about a particular body part, end up, years later, getting cancer in exactly that part of their body."

Excuse me? What young woman doesn't grow up thinking at least somewhat negatively about her body, especially one who goes through puberty as young as I did? And yeah, I did hear lots of negative comments about my body when I was young. And yes, I have hated both my breasts and my belly at times.

But I repeat, what woman doesn't feel at least some ambivalence about her body?

He kept saying that he got this idea from Bernie Siegel, in Love Medicine and Miracles. I haven't read that book but I did read another by him (Peace, Love and Healing) and I suspect that his words were distorted by this so-called therapist.

The whole session with this man was appalling. He rambled, said a number of inappropriate and irrelevant things (about himself and other clients) and seemed to have little inclination to listen to what I was saying (and I ended up saying very little).

And he was extremely irritated when I ended the session early (I stayed for an hour but really, I was ready to bolt after the first five minutes).

I left feeling more than a little shaken and relieved that I had not gone to see this fraud when I was actually feeling vulnerable (like say, right after I had learned of the metastasis and not right after getting good news, when I feel healthy and strong).

The next day, I came upon this poem by Jacqueline over at Rebel 1 in 8 (I am reproducing it here because I really need you all to read it but please do go to her blog and also, here to buy here beautiful jewelry and check out her clothing designs):

what it's not. and the gratitude of my flesh.

it's not
a victim
of your shame
or mine

it's not
a symbol
of your fear
or mine

it's not
a reflection
of your arrogance
or mine

it's not
an armor
for your struggles
or mine

it's not
a billboard
for your truths
or mine.

it's not fabric to be stitched
clay to be formed
marble to be carved
a book to be read
a song to be sung
a cheer to be shouted
a code to be broken
a mystery to be solved
a key for a lock
or a

it is simply flesh.

MY flesh.

and it is grateful.

for the things

One of the beautiful things about poetry is that interpretation can always be left up to the reader.

But what Jacqueline wrote spoke directly to me.

I realized that everything that therapist said was really about him, not me. His own fears, his own insecurities. And his own ego.

And I have taken Jacqueline's words to heart. I will continue to strive to be as comfortable as I can in this skin of mine. I will think of myself as healthy, strong and beautiful.

And I will forgive myself when I don't.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

sunnier days then or now?

Another NaBloPoMo cop out today, since I am so tired from my week end that I can barely see straight.

My nine year old brought this article in the New York Times Magazine to my attention. Seems that my children need to be protected from the Sesame Street I watched as a child.

I always thought that Bob guy was a little suspicious.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

what a mother does for love

I saw The Bee Movie this afternoon.

D. loved it.

I loved that he loved it.

And I looked at my watch a lot.

Friday, November 16, 2007

the ones that turn the day around

Today has been one of those days. I am re-covering from chemo and I have caught a cold (likely from one of the little parasites otherwise known as my children). My throat hurts and I am sore all over.

The following two bits of conversation very likely saved my day:

"Do you like hot toddys?"


"Mama, I love you as much as all the days."

Both of those offerings warmed me from the inside out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

i thought i had seen it all

Too tired and brain dead to really write today, so I give you this:

This is what is written in the first couple of paras of the smaller text:

Too late, when love has gone for a wife to plead that no one has warned her of danger. Because a wise, considerate wife makes it her her business to find out how to safeguard her daintiness in order to protect precious married love and happiness.

One of the soundest ways for a wife to keep married love in bloom is to achieve dainty allure by practicing effective feminine hygiene such as regular vaginal douches with reliable "Lysol."


I cannot imagine. Really, I can't.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

passage of time

I had to help J-Dog up onto the bed tonight.

It seems like yesterday that he was the puppy and Emma was the senior dog who needed a bit of help sometimes.

Now Emma is gone and tonight, for the first time, my puppy is old enough to need help getting on the bed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

contemplating a return to the two-dog (and a crotchety cat) life

Tonight, I am stoned from the Demerol that I am given to mitigate the side-effects of the Herceptin.

Boy, typing is hard when I'm stoned.

I am reading, A Three Dog Life, a memoir by Abigail Thomas.

She starts her book with the following quote from Wikipedia;

Australian Aborigines slept with their dogs for warmth on cold nights, the coldest being a 'three-dog night.'

I am loving this book. I am seriously too stoned to be coherent as to why, so here is the blurb from Abigail's web site:

When Abigail Thomas’s husband, Rich, was hit by a car, his brain shattered. Subject to rages, terrors, and hallucinations, he must live the rest of his life in an institution. He has no memory of what he did the hour, the day, the year before. This tragedy is the ground on which Abigail had to build a new life. How she built that life is a story of great courage and great change, of moving to a small country town, of a new family composed of three dogs, knitting, and friendship, of facing down guilt and discovering gratitude. It is also about her relationship with Rich, a man who lives in the eternal present, and the eerie poetry of his often uncanny perceptions. This wise, plainspoken, beautiful book enacts the truth Abigail discovered in the five years since the accident: You might not find meaning in disaster, but you might, with effort, make something useful of it.

This memoir is really resonating with me (and not just because she has three dogs and knits).

I especially love the last line of that quote.

Amen to that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

stay in the moment, damn it

To myself, in yoga class:

"Should I force S. to do yoga?"

"I wonder what time it is."

"How long will it take to get good at this?"

"I think I'll add a little turmeric to the tomato sauce."

"Should I walk J-dog when I get in or clean up and make dinner, first?"

"Where does the day go?"

"I'm thirsty."

"She's much better at this than I am."

"I have to remember to send a cheque to school with D.s' picture order form."

"I really need to wash this yoga mat."

"I should blog about this."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

not your grandmother's shawl

I wore a shawl that my friend D. knit for me tonight.

I looked pretty spiffy.

I got a whole bunch of compliments on it.

It covered up the bulges that should be flat and the flat bits that should be bulges.

And I felt like I was being hugged all night.

I love it when people knit, weave or sew for me.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

cancer crusader

Meet Nancy Baye (please forgive the quality of this pic. I borrowed a friend's camera and I obviously didn't know how to use it properly). I found her among the vendors at the National Conference for Young Women Living with Breast Cancer. In a sea of pink (dotted with squishy prostheses for sale), the vibrant colours of her booth were a sight for sore eyes.

Nancy is a three time breast cancer survivor (as she says, "I'm an overachiever.") who, finding that there weren't a lot of materials out there that "empowered" women living with breast cancer, decided to make her own. The Cancer Crusader was born.

Since I love thinking of myself as a badass superhero, I was thrilled to meet Nancy. Loved her work. Really liked her personally. Admired everything she does (she's also an artist and an actor).

She was selling these terrific t-shirts (you can buy them with the 'survivor' or 'supporter' caption):

She was also selling journals for women who are newly diagnosed. They have blank pages for, well, journalling but also places to make notes during each step of treatment, pages for listing folks who have offered to help with various things and even a page on which you can paste a lock of your hair.

And the best part is they're not pink! They are red and blue, with motivational captions throughout (superhero themed, of course) and lovely comic book type graphics (I live in a house with some hardcore comics fans; some of this has definitely rubbed off on me).

Nancy writes:
This journal is dedicated to all women, who, like me, have been called into action by cancer. May your writing be cathartic, liberating and a constant companion on your journey...And may you find your inner super-hero along the way."
I thought these journals were so cool that I bought two (and I really wanted to support Nancy). It was only later that afternoon that I realized I didn't know what to do with them.

I don't really have anyone in my life right now who has been newly diagnosed.

So I've decided to share the love. Do you know someone who is in a place right now that they would appreciate this journal? Drop me a line at laurie dot kingston at gmail dot com and let me know how you would put one (or both) of these journals to good use. I'll mail it to you.

Friday, November 09, 2007

if a picture is worth a thousand words, then four blurry pics are worth a NaBloPoMo entry

In lieu of writing anything of substance this evening, I am letting D. entertain you.

Every Saturday he goes to gymnastics. A couple of weeks ago, I attended, camera in hand and played paparazzi (while attempting to not be too obnoxious about it)...

Regularly scheduled programming will return shortly.

He is pretty cute, though, isn't he?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

not waiting for the other shoe

The night after my CT, I dreamed that my dog had been in a terrible accident. In the dream, I rushed to the hospital and waited, feeling anxious, terrified and grief-stricken, while he was in surgery. In the end, my dear dog survived the accident and was expected to recover. He was, however, really traumatized.

It wasn't until I was re-counting this dream at the breakfast table that I realized that it hadn't been about the dog at all.

Back in July, when I got the first good CT result, I was overjoyed at first but then angst-ridden. And the reality is that while I have now twice received the best news possible, my day-to-day life will not change very much.

I will continue with chemo - two weeks on, two weeks off.

I am still a cancer patient.

But as I continue to defy the odds (the stats on survival rates for women with metastatic breast cancer are abysmal and the stats when the metastasis is in the liver, even worse), I need to give myself permission to let down my guard a little. To be hopeful.

It's starting to feel OK to make plans for a few months in the future. And in a few months, perhaps I will feel I can plan even further ahead than that.

My friend T. said to me as we left my appointment on Tuesday, "You are going to get to see your kids grow up." I am not sure I'm ready to let myself believe that but I replay her words to myself and I feel warmed by them.

I'm starting with teaching myself not to panic whenever I feel the familiar stitch in my side. I know now that the pain is due to scarring but I am still working on quieting the panic it instills.

So, not much has changed but everything has changed.

I can't have my old life back but I have a great deal of hope.

I think I can live with that.

on life as a pincushion

I am covered in some spectacular bruises today. To do the CT, they not only have to find a vein, they have to thread the needle through it in order to create an iv for radioactive dye.

If this sounds painful, it's because it is. And, veins on someone who's had a lot of chemo are hard to come by.

First, they tried on the inside of my elbow.

Then they tried on the side of my forearm.

Finally, they had to go for the inside of my wrist.

The nurse informed me that she usually avoids this at all costs, because it is "torture" (she actually said this more than once).

It hurt like hell.

I think the nurse was astonished that I didn't yell or lose my temper. I did gasp, and rather loudly, as the murmers from those waiting on the other side of the curtain indicated. But I was good (as we first-born children tend to be).

The nurse kept commenting on how good-natured I was.

And I'm certainly more stoic than I used to be.

But really, though, I was too stressed about getting the test done to think much about about being stuck with needles.

It's all relative, really.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

i am spectacular

The results are in:

My liver functions are normal. The condition of my liver has improved. There is no evidence at all of metastasis (no sign that I have cancer at all, in fact).

Why am I so surprised by this? I have had a dull ache (sometimes a sharper pain) in the area of my liver for the last couple of weeks. It's exactly where the stitch started last year, the stitch that led to the discovery that my cancer had spread. I have had moments of pure unadulterated terror, when I have thought of what it could mean.

It turns out that the pain, which I had been hoping was in my head (but knew in my heart to be real) is due to scarring. You know how scar tissue is so tight and inflexible? The scars on my liver are causing it to retract, making it sensitive.

My oncologist seemed even happier than he did back in July when I first discovered my tumours had disappeared. "It's all gone!" he crowed.

I was relieved and over-joyed but felt the need to reassure him that I was also being 'realistic' about my prognosis (the longer we can maintain the status quo the better but I do know that one day, this treatment will stop working).

But he surprised me.

He said, "Well, realistic....For some women the results of combining Herceptin and vinorelbine have been spectacular."


And then he added, "I think you might continue this way for a long, long time."

He concluded by telling my friend T. to take me out for a drink (which she did).

"Go celebrate."

I did have a glass of wine. Now I am going to put my four year old to bed and then collapse out of sheer exhaustion and relief.

And tomorrow? I am going to go back to being spectacular.

I think the November curse may have been broken.

Monday, November 05, 2007

lap cat distracts from CAT scan worries (dog snoring does a pretty good job too)

I am home. And exhausted.

I have to get up early tomorrow, to go to for abdominal and thoracic CT scans (also known as CAT scans) .

Once someone has had cancer, every headache, stitch, lump, bump or bout of dizziness becomes suspect. And every test, no matter how routine is fraught with anxiety.

I have been the best kind of busy these last few days. The conference and the time I spent with friends and family (as well as the chance to change my environment for a while) provided both a distraction and more reassurance than a fist full of tranquilizers.

But I do feel a little queasy and a little a lot scared when I think about what the results of this test could mean. The worst doesn't bear thinking about, actually; so I'm trying not to do so.

And right now, with my youngest asleep, my oldest in the bath, my sweetie in the room with me, the dog snoring with his head in my lap and the cat doing his best imitation of a nice kitty, it's not so hard to feel optimistic. I just wish the test was over, the results were in and I could share the good news with all of you.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

writing when i don't feel like it: thank you NaBloPoMo

Today's post is brought to you by NaBloPoMo, or "National Blog Posting Month."

I participated last year and met my commitment to blog every day, despite being diagnosed with metastatic cancer.

I benefitted from participating in NaBloPoMo 2006. I discovered new blogs and found many new readers. And blogging through that most difficult time helped to make it more bearable. Naming my fear and talking about it made it so much easier to cope with it.

I look forward to blogging every day throughout this month.

I hope I can find something interesting to say every day. But if life during NaBloPoMo 2007 is relatively uneventful, that will be OK by me.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

i wish i didn't qualify to be here but since i do, i'm glad i am

My head is very full.

I have been attending a conference for the last few days, aimed at young women living with breast cancer. I have learned a lot. My resolve has been renewed, I have been energized and I have made some new discoveries about myself.

I will share what I have learned and thought and concluded very soon (as well as respond to the wonderful comments and emails I have received).

But tonight I am drained and exhausted. And there is more conference tomorrow.

Going to knit and watch a movie where lots of things go boom now.

Friday, November 02, 2007

where do you draw the line?

Yesterday I was asked by someone not to write about something on my blog.

Even though I don't share this person's concerns, I decided to respect their wishes. It actually wasn't a hard decision to make, as it was only the second time this has been asked of me and I really don't want my writing to hurt or embarrass the people I love.

Writing this blog has changed the way that I view the world, in that I am constantly experiencing events as potential blog fodder. There are very few topics (if any) that I would consider to be off limits in and of themselves but, as I do not blog anonymously, I don't feel I can write at the expense of those to whom I am closest.

What about you? If you are blogger, where do you draw the line?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

candy hangover

Every year, my spouse and I have the same argument.

(Four year old D. was Batman by day)

He buys the Halloween candy. I tell him he didn't buy enough. One of us goes out to buy more. We have candy left over.

Every year it's the same.

So, this year, when I checked out the stash of candy that T. bought, and it looked like there wasn't enough, I did the only thing that made sense.

I went out and bought more.

And gave it away by the fistful. I restrained kids who were eager to move onto the next house, "No wait! I need to give you more! I have too much! Don't you want chocolate?"

(and a Doggie by night)

When it looked like I was still going to have too much candy I did the only other thing that made sense.
I started eating.

By the time I went to bed I felt a little woozy.

(S. was a bloody good zombie)

And I had candy left over.

I'd say, "live and learn" but I really don't thing that I have. Next year, when I don't think my spouse has bought enough candy, I'll go out and buy more.

(The end.)

More Halloween photos here.