Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"what's wrong with breast cancer awareness month?"

"October is breast cancer awareness month, which again fills the stores with pink products and pink ribbons. But many people with breast cancer are feeling exploited."

It's only September 30th and I already have pink ribbon fatigue. I ranted about about this in 2006, 2007 and 2008 (there is also a version of this rant in my book, Not Done Yet).

This year, let me point you to an excellent article by Maija Haavisto (and I don't just say this because she quotes me):

Since 1985 October has been celebrated as breast cancer awareness month, often symbolized by pink ribbons and the color pink. It is interesting to note that the awareness month was started by the drug company AstraZeneca (which manufactures several breast cancer drugs) and the pink ribbon originated from cosmetics giant Estée Lauder.

Simply put, I think a lot of breast cancer awareness month is big scam. To quote Maija's article quoting me (is this as po-mo as it gets?):

"I really resent big corporations making a profit - while donating only a tiny percentage to breast cancer research - on some disposable item that has been made under questionable environmental conditions by workers who are paid less than a living wage."

Want to do something to raise breast cancer awareness? Make a donation to an organization doing good work. Advocate for changes in environmental laws. Encourage young people to be aware of changes in their bodies. Do something nice for someone who has been affected by the disease.

And if you are craving a slice of pink cake, washed down with a glass of pink lemonade, by all means, indulge yourself. Just please don't do it in my name.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

k. and the colossal colon

On Friday evening, my friend K. will be arriving from the Netherlands for a long-anticipated visit. I haven't seen her since she flew to London to hook up with S. and me in the spring of 2008. I can hardly wait! Two more sleeps!

K. is a gastroenterologist and is coming to Canada for a conference in Toronto. She's making a special trip to Ottawa to hang out with my family and me for the week end.

The last time K. came to this part of Canada was in 2005, when she attended a conference in Montreal. I took the train to meet her, and we went out to dinner and had a sleepover. At that point, we hadn't seen each other in almost twenty years and I was worried that we wouldn't recognize each other. That turned out to not to be a problem, and I remember how my heart lifted when I saw her.

I also remember the Colossal Colon that was set up in the atrium of the conference centre. The thing was huge colossal. I was awestruck. And I seem to remember that no one else was giving it a second glance.

I was reminded of this reunion and the big colossal colon the other day, when someone on Facebook linked to an article by Miami Herald columnist and humourist Dave Barry:

"What happened was, a giant 40-foot replica of a human colon came to Miami Beach. Really. It's an educational exhibit called the Colossal Colon, and it was on a nationwide tour to promote awareness of colo-rectal cancer. The idea is, you crawl through the Colossal Colon, and you encounter various educational items in there, such as polyps, cancer and hemorrhoids the size of regulation volleyballs, and you go, ''Whoa, I better find out if I contain any of these things,'' and you get a colonoscopy.

If you are as a professional humor writer, and there is a giant colon within a 200-mile radius, you are legally obligated to go see it. So I went to Miami Beach and crawled through the Colossal Colon. I wrote a column about it, making tasteless colon jokes. But I also urged everyone to get a colonoscopy. I even, when I emerged from the Colossal Colon, signed a pledge stating that I would get one.

But I didn't get one. I was a fraud, a hypocrite, a liar. I was practically a member of Congress."

Barry goes on to tell how some jarring news about his brother moved him to finally have the colonoscopy. And other than the prep, it was no big deal.

It's called, "
A Journey Into My Colon -- And Yours" and it made me laugh out loud in several places. Go read it.

And, if you're over 50, make an appointment for a colonoscopy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

talking "not done yet."

I'm going to be on BlogTalk radio tomorrow!

The show: Lovebabz Lovetalk.

The time: 12:30-1:15 EST.

The call-in number: (718) 766-4895

Please call in, if you can. I am really looking forward to this on-air chat with my friend Babz.


I've been really struggling with insomnia lately. Falling asleep is tricky enough, but remaining asleep is the real challenge.

Most nights, I find myself awake plagued by questions:

Where do I know the actor from who played the handyman in The Waterhorse?

Should we have washed the dogs before we cleaned the carpets?

What if my oncologist ordered a thoracic CT scan so soon after my last abdominal one because they heard something during my last exam (and not just because I hadn't had one in a long time)?

Is the hat I'm making for D. going to be too small?

Was the other movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs? (I looked it up. His name is Ben Chaplin and it he was the actor in both movies).

Was I sent for two CT scans two weeks apart because of poor planning (or poor communicaiton) or is there something ugly growing on my lungs?

If the hat is too small, should I give it to someone else or rip it out and start over?

And so on, until I realize that sleep is hopeless.

Then I get up, play a little online Scrabble (or Lexulous), look up movies on the internet, check out what's happening on Facebook and hope that I will start to feel sleepy again.

But I'm tired today and tired makes me feel melancholy (I have more on that subject but I think I need to save it for another post).

I could drink more caffeine or go take a nap but neither will help me sleep tonight. Don't know if I can help myself, though.

Friday, September 18, 2009

random. out of necessity

t's Day 3 After Chemo and my brain is jumping around like a puppy with a burr up her butt. I can't focus on anything for more than a few seconds so here is a little bit of randomness:


It appears that my family and I will be among the first in line for the H1N1 vaccine. My kids will be so thrilled.


My friend Jeanne, the Assertive Cancer Patient, posted about a reader in Texas who has $187,000 worth of Neupogen that she can't use:
"Texas doesn't have a drug repository that would take this medicine and pass it on to someone who needs it, and she hates to see it go to waste, as do I.

Any ideas, readers?

Obviously, we can't break the law and put this stuff on eBay or Craigslist, so I am looking for legal ways to get these expensive drugs to someone who can use them."


Yesterday, I got a phone call from the CT booking unit at my local hospital. I was informed that my oncologist had ordered a scan of my abdomen and chest, to be administered within the next couple of weeks.

I had a CT scan on September 4. When I mentioned this to the person who was booking the appointment, she had me call the nurse who works with my oncologist to confirm that they really want me to have another one. The nurse called back today and said that I didn't need to do the abdomen but since it's been a while since they have done the chest, we should go ahead with that.

I called the booking person back and the appointment has been scheduled for this Sunday afternoon at 1:20 (I had to cancel plans). My questions: Why didn't we they just order my chest scan for the same time as my las CT? Or my next one? I have no reason to believe that my doc suspects that there is anything wrong and I bet that if I could talk to him directly he would say that the chest scan can wait until we next do the abdomen. Why should I be subjected to extra radiation, an extra trip to the hospital and an extra session of find-the-vein when we have no reason to believe that there is anything wrong (and while I continue to undergo chemotherapy)?

But it's just not worth fighting about. Sigh.


Finally, I have another finished object to show. It's a Clapotis. I totally wish this one were for me but it has been promised to someone else. I will definitely add another one to the knitting queue. I made it from Knit Picks yarn (the Gloss Sock Yarn, merino wool and silk). It's lovely stuff (especially after washing) and relatively inexpensive. It also came quickly. I'll definitely order from them again.

These photos don't really do it justice but my son was a very, very good sport about posing for them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

frequent flyer

I had chemo on Tuesday. It was kind of a long day (I started with bloodwork at 8:30 and left the hospital at 3:30) which passed quickly due to the company of a really good friend. We had so much to say to each other that we needed the whole day to cover everything (except for when I was sleeping. The demerol/gravol combo really does knock me out).

It would have been an even longer day if I hadn't been on the receiving end of a little preferential treatment. At one point, the nurse who coordinates the chemo floor came out to reception and wrote on the notice board that they were running an hour behind schedule. I happened to be standing nearby and she caught my eye and said to me, in French, "environ" (approximately).

I was surprised, then, when my name was called a few minutes later. I passed the same nurse again, on the way in, and said, "That wasn't an hour."

"We squeezed you onto another team," she replied.

My friend, C. said, "Are you queue jumping?"

I smiled back. "It's the life-time membership."

Monday, September 14, 2009

bone loss: a public service announcement

I have been reading Cancer Fitness by Anna L. Scharwtz. I'm only a few chapters in, but the book has already taught me some important things.

I don't tend to devote a lot of thought to preventing bone loss but I did know that regular weight-bearing exercise helps prevent bone loss and to build strong bones. And while I walk and run (just finished the Running Room's beginner program again), I really don't do any strength training (or core work, for that matter, despite repeated promises to myself).

The women in my family tend to have strong bones (and good bone density) but what I didn't realize was how many factors put me at risk:

  • early menopause, as a result of chemotherapy.

  • doxorubicin (Adriamycin, the infamous "red devil). I had 6 rounds (this is also the drug that temporarily damaged my heart).

  • decadron and other steroids (I had higher doses with the first 6 rounds of chemo but I still get decadron through IV with every chemo treatment, to help mitigate side effects).

  • lorazepam (Ativan, which I use only occasionally for insomnia. I had absolutely no idea that it caused bone loss)

  • regular consumption of caffeine.

And I don't drink very much milk, either.

Remember, that promise to myself I made in January? Well, I have not made as much progress as I would like. So, I signed up for a fitness class at my local community centre that incorporates core work and strength training (since the free weights, stability ball and exercise bands don't seem to be doing much more than collecting dust) to get myself started. Now, I have another reason to get to it.

I also took a calcium supplement today for the first time in months. Those suckers are horse pills but I think I need to get back into the habit of choking them down.

What are you doing to prevent bone loss?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

toronto book party (take 2)

If you live near Toronto or have plans to be around, I look forward to seeing you there!

(the flu is not going to get me this time).

Friday, September 11, 2009

CT results

"It's good news!" said the voice on the other end of the phone. She sounded ecstatic. When you are nurse working in oncology, relaying good news must come as a welcome change.

"You're kidding!" I exclaim. Then, "I don't know why I always say that."

She laughs. "Well, there is no change. It's stable."

Seriously, she sounded giddy. We giggled some more.

She said, "You have a wonderful week end." She really sounded like she meant it.

Suddenly, I'm in the mood to celebrate. I already have dinner plans. And I probably would have had a beer anyway (they have Beau's. How could I resist?).

Now, I may have two. But I doubt it. I will just enjoy the beer, the food and the company (six people I love), even more.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

back to the book

And yes, that's 'book.' Singular. As in, Not Done Yet: Living Through Breast Cancer. I haven't talked about it in a while (I burned myself out and I'm sure that you all were pretty bored with all the self-promotion) but fall brings fresh starts, renewed energy and a willingness to get back to work (or something like that).

Are you like me, in that you still find the return to school feels like the beginning of a new year (whether or not you have kids) and brings with it the impulse to make resolutions (or re-commit to those made in January that have long since been abandoned)? And to buy school related things? And read more?

How about buying a book?

I have been informed that Chapters/Indigo now has a bunch of copies in stock, so that you don't have to wait weeks when you order online. This also means that, if your local Chapters/Indigo does not carry the book, you can ask them to get it in for you. And if the books they have ordered sell well, they'll order in more.

However, I continue to have a deep and abiding love for independent bookstores. This feeling has only deepened since become an author with a small Canadian publishing company. The indies have been the most supportive and by far the easiest to deal with. Octopus Books, here in Ottawa, hosted my book launch. Collected Works also carries the book. Please support your local independent book store.

If you know of a local, independent book store that is carrying my book let me know. I'll contact them and see if they want their logo (with a link) added to the sidebar of my blog.

And of course, you can still by the book through Women's Press.

Finally, I have about a dozen copies of the book that I will happily sell. I charge the price of the book plus the exact amount of postage that it costs me. You can order via my nifty pay pal button or by sending me an email (notdoneyet at kingston-wayne dot ca).

Friday, September 04, 2009

i do run on

The echocardiogram was fine, the doctor found nothing unusual when she examined me, my butt is sore today from all the biking, the technician got the vein on the first try before the ct scan, I will have results in about a week, I got to go on a great walk with my sister today, my kids and spouse have just left on a two night canoe trip and this evening, I am going out for a grown-up dinner.

Life. Is. Good.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

routine anxiety

Today and tomorrow I will make a total of three trips to the General Hospital for tests and an appointment with my oncologist (I toyed with the idea of staying at the hospital all day today but, with 4 and half hours between appointments, I chose to come home. This will mean an extra bike ride up the big hill that is Smythe Rd but I have chosen that as the lesser of two evils).

These appointments will probably never stop making me anxious but I am feeling especially stressed out right now, perhaps because the timing is so compressed.

This morning, I had an echo-cardiogram.

This afternoon, I see the oncologist (My appointment was set a week earlier than it usually is in the cycle and his nurse insisted that I come in for the appointment, as opposed to calling in. This can't have anything to do with my health, as he doesn't have any test results for me. Is he having all his patients in to tell us in person that he is leaving? I have no evidence that this is the case except irrational speculation on my part).

And tomorrow morning, I have a CT scan.

All of these things are just a routine part of my life. But I don't think they will ever feel routine to me.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

fifteen (ok, seventeen) books

"Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Select fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. Choose the first fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes."
My friend P. tagged me with a book meme on Facebook yesterday. I found myself laying awake last night, thinking through what my choices would be. It was fun to riffle through my mental library and pull out the books that have, for one reason or another, had a lasting impact.

I suspect that if I were to do this meme again next week, my answers would be significantly different.

Another friend, the pseudonymous Winnifred T. Poodle also tagged me. And then I found that my list replicated one of P.'s choices and two of Winnifred's. Would these books have been on my list without the power of suggestion?

Consider yourselves all tagged. And yes, I do know that I have listed seventeen books. I couldn't bear to pare down my list any further; it certainly would have taken me more than fifteen minutes to do so. And besides, it's my blog and I get to make the rules here.

Here are mine, in the approximate order that I read them:

1. Pride And Prejudice (Jane Austen)
2. This Can't Be Happening At Macdonald Hall (Gordon Korman)
3. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (Judy Blume)
4. The Grapes Of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
5. The Lord Of The Flies (William Golding)
6. Kamouraska (Anne Hébert)
7. A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man (James Joyce)
8. The Women's Room (Marilyn French)
9. Midnight's Children (Salman Rushdie)
10. Shikasta (Doris Lessing)
11. The Fifth Child (Doris Lessing)
12. Bastard Out Of Carolina (Dorothy Allison)
13. Fall On Your Knees (Anne-Marie MacDonald)
14. Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)
15. Bitter Chocolate (Carol Off)
16. The Book Of Negroes (Lawrence Hill)
17. Fruit (Brian Francis)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

first day

My insides are churning today. I am unable to concentrate on any one task. And I didn't sleep well last night.

You see, today was the first day of school.

D. started Grade 1 at a new school. S. went into Grade 6 at the same one.

I remember Grade 6. It was when it started to be all about my peers. I remember the drama, the intrigues, the intense friendships that formed and broke up. And I remember the hormones.

And as for D., I can't believe that my baby is old enough to be in Grade One. He has been counting down the days for weeks, complaining that the summer was too long and that he just wanted to start school already. His expectations are very, very high (although last night when he couldn't fall asleep, he asked my spouse, "What if I get bad grades?") and I worry that he will be greatly disappointed.

Yes, emotions ran very high in our house this morning.

And the kids were pretty worked up, too.