Friday, November 26, 2010

it gets better. and it can get better now, too.

Chances are very good that you've already heard of the It Gets Better Project, which was started in response to a series of suicides. Young people (some as young as 13 years old) are choosing to kill themselves rather than continue to deal with being bullied or shamed.

I love this powerful, touching and often funny series of videos aimed to give hope to young (and older) teens who are feeling depressed or alone because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.

This one from Pixar is the favourite in my house.

A day or two ago, The Maven shared this video on Facebook. These kids are saying that things need to get better now, not just in the future. It's brilliant and I am in awe.

Reteaching Gender and Sexuality from PUT THIS ON THE MAP on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

but i have an excuse (actually i have a few)

I bailed on National Novel Writing Month on the first day, having written just under 700 words.

I felt like there were too many other interesting bits of writing that I wanted to do, including continuing to edit last year's novel.

And then my life became insane. I've been really hard on myself for all the things I'm not doing lately. This week, though, I've had two people who are very important to me (my coach/therapist and my friend DM) listen to me unload and then tell me that I would have every right to feel overwhelmed with a fraction of what I've got on my plate.

I tend to be hard on myself because I don't work outside the home right now. If I don't go to a job I feel like I should just sail through my other commitments. It felt really good to list everything going on in my life and have two women I respect offer support and sympathy. I've decided that I need to cut myself a lot more slack.

I can do NaNoWriMo next year. I'm OK with that. But I did feel a pang when my son sent me this video:

NaNoWriMo was a fun kind of crazy. I just couldn't let the rest of my life go to do it this year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

and then my hair got did (final makeover post, i promise)

Of the four women being made over, two of us picked our clothes and shoes in the morning and then had our hair done after lunch. I was grateful to be in the afternoon group and have someone else do the work for a couple of hours.

Actually, I did have to do a bit of work. It took concentration to separate those little papers.

You can't really see all of them, but there are THREE little bowls of colout being applied to my head.

This is my favourite part.

And this is why my hair will never again look the way it did when Tony was finished with it. How does anyone do the back of their own head like that?

Thanks so much to Tony from L'Elégance Salon (they don't have a web site or I'd provide a link), the St. Laurent Centre and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation for making all of this possible.

(All photos by S. Sioufi except the last which was provided by T. Vincent)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

and then it got easier

It's not that I don't have anything else to talk about. It's just that life has been really, really busy lately and when I finally get the time to blog, my brain is no longer working.

I thought I'd continue sharing my makeover photo-story with you. Please feel free to move right along if you're bored with this stuff. Let me know in the comments if you've read anything interesting lately.

Meanwhile, the shoe store was more fun than the changing room:

First I had to pretend to be shopping for shoes, so that A Channel could get some footage.

Check out the heels on these babies.

I threw on this dress so that I could be filmed without ruining the surprise. It hadn't even been among the outfits that I considered but I loved it so much that I thought about changing my mind. Or going back a few days later and buying it. But seriously - where would I wear a second fancy outfit? To the dog park? Buying groceries? To parent-teacher interviews?

Can you tell which shoes I came in with?

It just occurred to me that the ones I chose (#53) look a bit like my old Blundstones mated with the those sexy pumps I looked at when I was still wearing the diva dress. Little boots but with a ridiculous heel.

See that crazy grin on my face? I love shopping for shoes.

Here's a better view of the whole ensemble. The St. Laurent Centre even paid to have my top altered. The outfit is hanging in my closet. I may just decide that I will wear it to the dog park.

Monday, November 22, 2010

chronological order

Arrived at the St. Laurent Centre with my friend SS, met the other women and realized that I was going to have an exciting day.

I was impressed with Tony from L'Elegance. He was consultative but had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted to do.

Trying on clothes was hard work. I don't have photos of some of the real duds or I would share (really I would). Finding items that fit and looked good was a real challenge and there were moments when I felt extremely frustrated. There were lots of great helpers, though.

I was determined to be open-minded but this was just too much sparkly for me. I felt like I was wearing a very shiny washboard.

Friday, November 19, 2010

makeover day

We arrived at the studio very early.

The anticipation was far worse than the experience of being on camera, which went pretty smoothly. And I didn't fall down!

The Fab Four with Tony from L'Elégance Hair (Tony gave us hours of his time - all day Monday and early Wednesday morning - taking great care with our colour and cuts. This lovely man is an artist. You should all go to St. Laurent Centre and get him to do your hair).

My favourite interviewer.

Blogging on the fly today (more pics and words about all of this soon) but I didn't want to let another day go by without acknowledging those who made this possible.

My friends AB for nominating me, SS for coming on Monday and MR for getting up early and joining my family at the studio.

My man and my boys (all photos courtesy of SKW) for the nomination, for getting up early to come to the studio and cheering every step of the way (and for saying that I was beautiful BEFORE I had the makeover).

The staff at Laura, Town Shoes, and L'Elégance Hair Salon.

Tasha and Renée from the St. Laurent Centre for the styling and the support.

To the lovely and talented woman who did all of our makeup on Wednesday morning (her name is escaping me. If you know it, please let me know so I can credit her).

And most of all, to Bernice from the St. Laurent Centre and Beth from the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. These women are dynamos who combine talent and determination with an enormous amount of compassion and kindness.

And finally, I need to mention Paula, JL and Tanya - the women with whom I went through this experience. The love, support and joy that each felt for each other and for me is impossible to express in words. Thanks so much for being so beautiful. I really do love each one of you.

It must be mentioned that this was all in aid of the Courage Campaign of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. The Foundation is building a Wellspring Centre that will provide "emotional, psychological and educational support, free of charge, to individuals and families living with cancer." As a an ongoing cancer patient, I can tell you that this the kind of thing that Ottawa needs desperately, to go along with the cutting edge medical care from which we all benefit.

It's not too late to make a donation! (The St. Laurent Centre, in addition to funding the makeovers, donated an additional $10,000 to the campaign. I know where I'm doing my Xmas shopping this year).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

makeover show tomorrow

For those in the Ottawa area, my makeover will be televised on the
A Channel tomorrow morning. My segments will air tomorrow morning at 9:13, 9:35 and 9:48.

Yesterday, I shopped and had my hair done. Tune in tomorrow for the big "reveal." Look at my smile in this pic. I was very spoiled and surrounded by amazingly caring people all day. I was overwhelmed by the kindness and enthusiasm of everyone I met, including the other three women who joined me in this adventure.

Thanks so much to the St. Laurent Centre and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation for making this happen, to T. and AB for nominating me and to SS for coming with me for moral support (and taking all these great photos).

Friday, November 12, 2010

making an adventure

photo: M. Slavitch

Early Thursday afternoon, as I woke up from a nap (I'd been sleeping off the toxins of chemo), my spouse came down from his attic office with an odd look on his face.

"Are you ready for some news?"

"Is it good news or bad news?" I said, attempting wake up.

"Good news, I think." He was giggling and looked a little stunned.

"Remember when you asked me to nominate you for a makeover at St, Laurent Shopping Centre?"

My eyes widened.

"You're in!"

They he told me that I needed to go to the mall for shopping and consultation and then, on Wednesday, I would be going to /A\ Channel to be made over on the air.

In case you missed that last bit, I'll repeat that this is a TELEVISED MAKEOVER.

"There's more," Tim added as I sat opening and closing my mouth like a fish. "It's a holiday makeover. You know, so that you can be ready for all the holiday parties you go to."

I do not go to any holiday parties where I can't wear jeans and a t-shirt. In fact, that's the smartest thing to wear to most holiday parties I might possibly attend.

"She actually used the word 'sparkly'." My dear spouse was by this point, enjoying himself. "And you have to decide today."

When I read on Twitter that St. Laurent was asking for nominations for cancer survivor makeovers, I impulsively asked T. to submit my name. I was confident that I wouldn't be chosen because I figured they'd want someone who looked more like a cancer patient. And if I were chosen I thought I'd just go to the mall, get made over and then have some pictures taken for their web site.

But I did get chosen. And when I went on Twitter and Facebook and asked my peeps what I should do, the answer was unanimous - "Go for it!"

So I'm going for it.

This is all being organized by the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and I do want to help draw attention to the good work that they do.

The St. Laurent Centre has some really great stores and I could end up with some great new gear and a fresh new look.

I could use the lift. It is easy to feel frumpy when you're out of the work force and pinching pennies. And chemo does take a physical as well as emotional toll.

And it could be fun.

So I've decided to approach this with an open mind and a spirit of adventure.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, November 08, 2010

contested irrelevance

I'm going to be quoting this brilliant speech given by my friend Andrea today (I'm doing a talk at Carleton University) and I realized that I have never shared it with you here, even though I found it to be deeply inspiring.

Please watch, and go and leave a comment over at We Can Rebuild Her so that Andrea can know the relevance and resonance of her words. It's a welcome reminder that nothing we do to effect positive change in this world is ever irrelevant.

This talk got a standing ovation at PAB 2010. I've watched it several times and it still gives me shivers.

Friday, November 05, 2010

when the doorbell rang (part 1)

It's 3:00 am and about half an hour ago, my doorbell rang.

At least I think it did, but my spouse thinks I was dreaming. I remember that I
was dreaming but about eating pastries while being handed a wad of twenty dollar bills. Who interrupts a dream about eating pastries and getting free money by dreaming the door bell? Some kind of Freudian diet police?

My reaction to the doorbell ringing was swift. I woke up my husband.

And then I lay there all cozy and warm in our bed while he went downstairs to investigate. I even muttered (somewhat sheepishly), "Be careful."

It was like something from one of the sitcoms I watched when I was growing up. Except that by then it was the seventies and eighties and in the sitcoms the wives would tiptoe downstairs behind their husbands.

And the men would usually be clutching a baseball bat.

We don't keep a baseball bat by the bed. We don't even own a baseball bat. The only thing close at hand that would be the approximate size and weight one could swing at an evildoer would be the dog. Who, incidentally, wasn't barking. I suppose one could take that as further evidence that I was dreaming.

So T. went downstairs and checked the front and back doors. There was no one there.

I think that whoever it was ran away. T., as I said before, thinks I dreamed it.

Fortunately, my dear spouse fell back asleep almost immediately. He's snoring now, as I type this, wide awake. Some kind of karmic justice?

The thing is our doorbell did ring, at around this time, last Saturday night when I was out of town. It was also the night before Hallowe'en, which at least in the telling, makes it creepier. But that's a story for another blog post.

Maybe now that I've confessed, I'll be permitted to return to dreamland.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

this is kind of nice as included Not Just About Cancer in their list of "15 Inspiring Breast Cancer Blogs."

Get inspired by this breast cancer survivor, who turned her unfortunate situation into a book about defying the odds and beating cancer.

Pretty cool, no? It's nice to know that someone's reading and finding resonance in my words. As for the "beating cancer" part - I know it lurks there somewhere and that we who have gone to Stage 4 are never, ever out of the woods but I do like to think I'm beating it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

mind body spirit

Thanks to Andrea for the photo.

I just spent an inspiring (and I don't use that word lightly) week end at Body, Mind, Spirit, 2010: National Conference for Young Women Living with Breast Cancer.

My best parts:

A Friday afternoon workshop: "Take charge of Your Treatment for Women with Metastatic Breast Cancer" with Dr. Maureen Trudeau. Engaging, accessible, interesting, informative and hopeful.

A Saturday afternoon workshop: "Intimacy after Cancer: Rekindling the Flame" with Dr. Sally Kydd. Amusing, motivating, reassuring, helpful and just plain fun.

A Sunday morning workshop: "Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer. Support that Works" with Dr. Tzeporah Cohen. Emotional,moving, cathartic, uniting, strengthening.

Speakers who resonated: Deborah Dubenofsky (Ontario Region Board Chair, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation) and Carol Ann Cole.

My takeaway message (from Dr. Natasha Zajmalowski, Dr. Rob Rutledge, Dr. Roanne Segal and others)-

When it comes to breast cancer recurrence, it appears that insulin is the root of all evil. Lowering insulin levels improves the odds for a long and healthy life. How to do this:

1. Get at least thirty-five minutes of moderate exercise every day. Hooray! Something I'm already doing right!

2. Maintain a healthy body weight. This has provided the kick in the pants to re-commit to dropping 44lbs by my 44th birthday. Weighing too little isn't good either but that's never been my problem.

3. Eliminate or reduce alcohol and sugar. The insulin explanation is the first one I've understood and accepted re the link between these yummy things and cancer recurrence. To be truthful, not being an "all or nothing" kind of person, I don't see myself promising to never consume booze or sweets again. I can't even say that I haven't partaken since the conference, this being the season of Hallowe'en and pumpkin ale. I can say that I will make a greater effort to hold out for the good stuff and not give in to cravings.

I'm happy to say that although this message was consistent, the speakers seemed to be devoid of judgment. No one was blaming the victim or telling cancer patients that they brought the cancer on themselves.

I still feel that there are greater environmental and medical issues that need to be addressed. But there are just so few things we can control as cancer patients that I appreciate straightforward advice and simple things I can do to increase my odds of being around to see my children grow up.

Thank you so much to the staff (especially Jenn McNeill of the CBCN) and volunteers (especially Andrew, a volunteer from Humber college who helped with my books, kept me company and was enormously supportive during and after my book signing) at the Canadian Breast Cancer Network and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation for helping me to promote Not Done Yet, and especially for organizing an amazing conference.

Can we do it again next year, please?

Monday, November 01, 2010

sugar hangover

Lots to tell about the conference I just attended but I'm exhausted and it's not just the result of all the sugar that was consumed in our house last night.

Instead of words, I give you some of the coolest kids in the world:

How often does one see a lady bug hanging out with Captain Kirk and the Grim Reaper? Death himself is my adorable offspring. The little trekkie and the bug are his very brave friends.

12 year old S. opted not to go trick or treating for the first time this year. Instead, he and his dad went to an early viewing off a movie that's usually shown at midnight. He's a character from that movie. Can you guess who he is? Those who've been privy to the discussion on Facebook are not allowed to vote!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

what i would miss

I just did an interesting writing prompt from Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg:
"Tell me what you will miss when you die."
The instructions were to write for ten minutes without censoring yourself. Here's what I wrote:

My kids

My spouse

My family

My friends

My dog

Beautiful fall days

Walks along the canal with my dog

Getting lost in a book

Taking a nap on a cold afternoon

Knitting with friends

The feeling of euphoria when I write something good


Good food


Wondering at art

A hot bath after exercise

Physical intimacy (all kinds)

The happy feeling when I unexpectedly run into someone I like

Learning new things

Aha! moments

Seeing people do good things

Being proud of my children

Noisy gatherings around my dining room table

Doing fun things for the first time

Doing familiar things that make me happy

Connecting creatively or intellectually

Making new friends

Having old friends and family members who 'get' me


Fresh starts

Clean sheets

Small kindnesses

Spectacular acts of bravery

Feeling proud of myself

The way the pavement smells after a summer rain

The possibility of tomorrow

What about you?

Friday, October 22, 2010

serendipitous cycle

I feel like a little kid again.

On August 15, I won a bike.

I was at the Ottawa Folk Festival and I bought three raffle tickets for five dollars. I told several people that I planned to win the third prize - a Kona Africabike 3, donated by McCrank's Cycles.

And then I did!

And here's the interesting part. I really, really wanted a new bike. I've been riding the same diamond frame (commonly called a men's bike) hybrid for almost twenty years. It's probably the wrong size for me and had started causing me neck and shoulder pain when I rode for more than a few minutes.

Over the summer, I test rode at least a dozen bicycles from four different bike shops. I came close to buying three times but each time, something held me back.

Our finances are really tight right now and I would have to commit to any bike I bought for a long time. And although several bikes I tried seemed fine, I didn't really love any of them. I had begun to think that I was just being too picky. I had pretty much resigned myself to spending a bit of money to fix up my old bike when the week end of the Folk Festival came around.

And then I won a bike that was nothing like any of the bikes I'd test ridden. And I love it.

With it's heavy frame (42lbs!) and big tires, it feels solid and safe to ride. I love how the coaster brakes (the kind where you stop by pedalling backwards) allow me to slow down gradually (there's a hand brake that helps me to stop quickly when I need to). I really only ever used seven speeds on my old bike, so I haven't really minded that my new bike has only three. The step-through frame means I can wear whatever I want to go cycling (and means that I have fewer excuses not to ride). And the "sit up and beg" style of riding means no pain and whole new way of taking in the world.

It's so much fun to ride! As I did all those test rides this summer, I kept waiting to fall in love and it just didn't happen. It turns out that the bike I needed was one I had been refusing to even consider (and that some of the features I had rejected are the ones I love the best).

For the first few days after I brought my bike home I'd sneak out to the garage just to admire it. I've even named it Steel Horse (because it's such a beast and after the song "I Am An Excellent Steel Horse" by Rock Plaza Central, a band I heard for the first time at this year's folk festival).

I've noticed that people smile at me when I ride my bike. I think it's because I'm grinning like an idiot.

When I was seven years old, I had a red bike with a yellow banana seat. That was my first bike and I've never loved another bike as much. Until now.

For every two Africabikes that are purchased, Kona donates one to it's Basic Needs program in Africa (these bikes were designed to be virtually maintenance free and to be easily ridden on the most rugged of roads). These bikes have been used to help health care workers to deliver HIV/AIDS drugs and to enable girls to travel longer distances to get to school.

If you live near Ottawa and are thinking of getting an Africabike (or any Kona bicycle) for yourself, please go to McCrank's Cycles. Peter Conway is a really good guy (and very generous!), who provides great bike service. He deserves your support.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

ottawa october

All photos: K. Bruin

In October, I live in the
most beautiful place in the world.

On, Thanksgiving week end (two weeks ago for those of you reading outside of Canada), my family was so fortunate to have a wonderful guest. My friend K. and I have been friends since we were 17 years old. We met as new room-mates in Room 1 of McLaughlin House at Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific. She was there representing the Netherlands and I hailed from Hawkesbury, Ontario.

We became friends pretty much instantly, through struggles with friendships, school and heartbreak and whole lot of fun. We travelled to Vancouver together and she once took me out on a sail boat into the bay so I could engage in a little primal screaming.

In my second year, after she'd graduated, I missed her terribly. We've been lucky though. Work has brought her to Canada three times in the last five years and we've been able to spend time together. My family has fallen in love with her. And I can't wait until next year, when she comes back.

When we were at school together, we lived in a very beautiful place and I know that K. loves this country almost as much as I do. But until this year, she'd never seen Eastern Ontario on a beautiful fall day.

This year, we had a chance to rectify that and we took advantage of the long week end and the glorious fall weather to go for a walk in Gatineau Park. K. was the only one of us who took photos on our outing and she's given me permission to share them with you. My only regret? There are no photos of the two of us together. We'll have to rectify that next year.

Friday, October 15, 2010

making the best of it

I think I've coped with chemo week much better this time around (thanks in part to some good advice from a friend).

Friday, October 08, 2010

"body, mind, spirit" a national conference for younger women affected by breast cancer

From the Canadian Breast Cancer Network:

Please circulate this to your network members, friends and family, we would love to see them there!

OTTAWA, Oct 1 /CNW/ - Today, October 1, is the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Canadian Breast Cancer Network and co-presenter Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation will recognize the month with a unique networking event for 400 young women with breast cancer.

The National Conference, called "Body, Mind, Spirit", will offer young women with breast cancer the opportunity to network with others who understand their situation, find out about the latest research directly from some of Canada's bright young researchers, and follow theme sessions on issues everyone with breast cancer is confronted with.

Young women will have the chance to be supported in all aspects of their cancer journey. Theme sessions for the body include healthy living and prevention; for the mind, sessions on chemo brain, self-advocacy, medical research and the latest about breast cancer; for the spirit will touch on everything from Yoga sessions to a chance for a guided walk in a specially constructed Labyrinth for spiritual centering.

Participants can look forward to frank discussion and to be able to question experts about babies after breast cancer, breast reconstruction, what to tell your children about breast cancer and when, and intimacy and sexuality after breast cancer.

A writing workshop and a creative art session will aid self-expression, and book signings and a breast-cancer related art show will give participants a chance to create art, meet authors and to view theme art by people from all over Canada affected by breast cancer. Poster presentations will cover all that is new from breast cancer resources to community support groups. Author and breast cancer husband Mark Silver will interest many with his experiences and encouragement. .

The conference will feature two gala evenings; a "Dinner and a Movie" night presented by Rethink Breast Cancer, a special glimpse of their upcoming BreastFest with Jonna's Body, Please Hold and an appearance by filmmaker and comedian, Jonna who will present her Girl Manifesto - an uproarious look at our kooky notions of body image, defying the Image Police and freeing your inner renegade. Movie night food at a picnic in the park will feature everyone's favorite treats.

The second Gala will feature an Arabian Night with belly dancing, hand kohl painting, a blaze of color, special décor and treats for everyone present, a banquet as only the Hilton Hotel can produce, and special guest Rock Star Bif Naked who will share her breast cancer journey with her story "Rock Your Cancer".

Canada's own beacon of hope Carole Ann Cole, originator of the Comfort Heart symbol worn by hundreds of thousands, will be one of the speakers at an upbeat closing ceremony.

"Body, Mind, Spirit" takes place in Toronto, October 29-31. No registrations will be available on site for this conference, which is expected to sell out to 400 participants. A special hotel conference rate of $129 per night at the downtown Toronto Hilton will only apply to a block of rooms being held until October 8.

Registration is now open through

I attended the first conference organized by the CBCN in 2007. It was an amazing experience. I'll be attending again this November (I am the fortunate recipient of a scholarship). Will you join me?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

letter of the day

Yesterday, CBC Radio's Q featured an interview with Samantha King, author of Pink Ribbons Inc.

At the end of the interview, listeners asked the following questions (they were also posted to the Q blog): What are your impressions of cancer fundraising and awareness efforts? Are they working? Do you find any aspect of them troubling?

My sister-in-law, B. alerted me to the interview (she listens on the east coast schedule) and encouraged me to write a letter in response. This morning, a slightly edited version of this letter was read on the air (I was the "Letter of the Day"):

In January 2006, when I was 38 years old an the mother of two young children, I was diagnosed with very aggressive breast cancer. I underwent a brutal treatment regimen only to learn in November of that same year that the cancer had spread to my liver. I was told that I had “years, not decades” to live.

I resumed treatment and, this time, my response was immediate and dramatic – by June 2007, there was no longer any sign of cancer in my body. As I write this, I am still in remission. I'm also still in treatment, as we don't know enough about what happens when metastatic breast cancer disappears to make an informed decision about stopping.
I know without a doubt that I am alive today because of the kind of cutting edge research funded by breast cancer organizations. I also know that thousands of women who've been through breast cancer live better lives because of the kind of advocacy and outreach work that is undertaken by non-profit organizations.
But I do cringe, seethe and yes, even rant every time October comes around and we are deluged with pink products from fried chicken to face cream to key chains.

In theory, I'm not opposed to corporate sponsorship. But in the same way that I think cigarette companies should not be permitted to sponsor children's festivals, I'm offended when companies that sell products that are unhealthy, bad for the environment and laden with carcinogens jump on the “pinxploitation” bandwagon. At best, these campaigns do little to eradicate breast cancer and worst, they are a cynical attempt to grab some good PR and increase profit margins at the expense of anyone who's life has been affected by cancer.

Don't get me wrong. I don't judge anyone who's drawn to all the pink stuff. I own a lovely pink cowboy hat. I would just ask folks to think before they get swept up in the “Pinktober” frenzy. Put that pink soup back on the shelf. Step away from the pink sweater with the pink ribbon buttons (for so many reasons). Unless you really want the pink sunglasses, save your money. Most companies only give a tiny percentage of sales to breast cancer research. Why not make a donation instead to an organization that is demonstrably contributing to research, advocacy and especially prevention of all cancers? Then you'll know that you really are making a difference.
All the letters that the host, Jian Ghomeshi, read were on this subject and all of them opposed pinkwashing. Perhaps tomorrow will bring a deluge of letters taking an opposing opinion but it's good to see that more of us are speaking out on this issue that has driven me wild since my own diagnosis of breast cancer.

Cross-posted to Mothers With Cancer.

Monday, October 04, 2010

i ran for the cure

photo: Ian Hendel

With my sister.

At the finish line.

Wearing my Songbird scarf.

And my hat from Texas.

Team NO PINK FOR PROFIT was 43 members strong. We raised a whopping $25,000.

Sometimes life is very sweet.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

a wild and crazy goal

I have been overwhelmed and touched by all the donations I've collected for the Run for the Cure.

Our team, No Pink for Profit, has more than thirty members.

I'm - ahem - tickled pink.

I've raised $1,558.00, way more than I'd anticipated. And maybe all this generosity and enthusiasm have made me delirious but I've begun to wonder, "what if I could make it an even $2000.00?"

What do you think? Is it possible? Want to help?

Monday, September 20, 2010

chronically whiny

I always think it's going to be different.

I say to myself, "This round of treatment, I will exercise and write and continue with my daily routine and see if that makes me feel better."

And thent, in the days that follow each dose of vinorelbine and Herceptin, I stay in bed too sick to do anything and lacking the self-discipline (motivation?) to try getting exercise, writing or going about my daily routine.

I don't even bother to eat well (although the soup I made the night before chemo was delicious and easy to heat up, so I did eat lots of that) or even do the easy things that might help (I was on the phone with my writing buddy and she asked if I'd been drinking hot water with lemon and ginger. Easy to prepare and she swears by it, yet I had completely forgotten).

I don't even drink enough water.

I just wait until the weekend when I know I'll feel better (unless I get sick, as I did yesterday and had to miss dinner with friends and my beloved book club).

I'm fed up.

Fed up with losing a week out of every month.

Fed up with having to constantly worry about my energy levels and not overdoing.

Fed up with not  having answers and having to worry.

Sometimes I amuse myself (and no one else) by announcing, "I'm done. That's it!"

But I don't really mean it. 

I know where I'd be if it weren't for all the chemo and the Herceptin. And I know that it's worth it.

And who knows? Maybe next time will be different.

Monday, September 13, 2010

a light has gone out

I just learned the very sad news that Christine Lynds passed away last Friday.

Chris was a strong, smart woman, who inspired and gave hope to so many people who's lived had been affected by cancer. We shared an oncologist and I appreciated her outlook towards living with advanced breast cancer.

I was also more than a little in awe of her. She was active and fit and a true community activist. The first time I met Christine in person, she had brought a posse of women who'd lived through breast cancer to my book launch. The second time I met her, she came to collect a prosthetic breast that I no longer wore so that it could find a new home with a friend of hers. We sat and drank coffee on my couch and talked about our boys and our dogs.

I know that she loved to organize people and projects and that she had many loyal friends to whom she was very committed. And I know that there are legions of people by whom she will be sorely missed.
Christine's blog was called "The Edge of Light." The world is a little darker without her in it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

women who care

A wonderful book was published this week. Women Who Care features stories of women's health care experiences - as providers and as patients. The book was the brain-child of Dr. Nili Kaplan Myrth:

In her third year of medical training - discouraged by how little focus there was on caring - a young woman was faced with a decision: she could throw her hands up and quit or she could risk speaking up and work toward change. She decided to send out a call asking women to share their experiences with health care and caring. Her e-mail inbox immediately overflowed with stories from women across Canada Together, this amazing group of women wrote Women Who Care.

The book was published by Pottersfield Press. I'm proud to say that an essay I've written has been included. It's called "Patient Personified" and it's about how the politics of health care have become intensely personal since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

You can order the book through the publisher or your local bookseller (Octopus Books is carrying it in Ottawa). The books author's will be donating any royalties to the Women's College Hospital Foundation.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

my fundraising pitch: run for the cure

Dear Friends and Family,

This year, I am running/walking in the Run for the Cure in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and I'm writing to ask if you'd be willing to make a donation.

As you know, this is an issue that is very personal for me. In November 2006, when I was told that my breast cancer had spread to my liver, I knew no one who had survived this kind of diagnosis. Even my oncologist reluctantly told me that I had “years not decades” to live.

But my response to treatment was immediate and dramatic – by June 2007, there was no longer any sign of cancer in my body. As I write this, I am still in remission. I'm also still in treatment, as we don't know enough about what happens when metastatic breast cancer disappears to make an informed decision about stopping.

There is no question in my mind that I am alive today because of the kind of cutting edge research that is funded by the Run for the Cure and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF).

In November 2007, I attended a conference that was funded my the CBCF for younger women affected by breast cancer. In one of the plenary sessions, I stood up and asked how many women attending the conference were also living with metastasis.

There were dozens of us. For the very first time I internalized the idea that having stage four breast cancer need not be a death sentence. It's not an overstatement to say that moment changed my life.

I support the Run for the Cure because I don't want any woman with breast cancer to feel alone.

I support the Run so that more of us with stage four can go into remission and even walk away from treatment with confidence.

I support the Run so that no woman need ever fear breast cancer again.

And I'm running with Team No Pink for Profit because I hate the corporatization of breast cancer. Our team name makes me feel a little bit subversive. I'm so proud to be the captain of this team comprised more than 30 women and we're the top fundraisers for our region. It gives me great pleasure to see our team name scrolling on the front page of the regional web site.

Can you help by making a donation? Any amount would be appreciated.

You can click on this link to learn more about me and make a donation:

Thanks so much!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

more soup

Starring (in order of appearance): olive oil, onions, garlic, garam masala, chipotle powder, water, vegetable stock, brown lentils, tomatoes, yu choy sum (Chinese greens), lemon juice, ground coriander. Served with a dollop of yogurt.

Loosely based on a Lebanese lentil soup recipe from the Toronto Star. I was out of cumin so substituted the garam masala. Ditto on the chipotle powder instead of cayenne. Soup is spicy but very, very good (if I do say so myself).

Monday, August 16, 2010

just another conversation

I've started to record bits of conversation that occur at our house. This one took place yesterday morning betweem my spouse and me.

T.: "Can you send a Facebook message to someone who's not your Friend on Facebook?"

Me: "You can. I get emails all the time from strange men saying they can't live without me."

T.: "You do?"

Me: "Yes, sometimes they say they saw my photo and that they can't stop thinking about me."

T.: "Wow."

Me: "I especially wonder about those because my profile photo is of the dog."

(Conversation interrupted by laughter)

Me: "I think they might be spam."

T.: "In those cases, I hope they are, because the alternative is disturbing."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

down-time at the ottawa folk festival

My spouse and youngest son and I went to the Ottawa Folk Festival this past week end. I love these shots T. took of D. and I chilling out between the afternoon and evening programming.

I didn't have any pockets, so I resorted to an old habit of sticking my cable needle in my cleavage. Except, I don't really have cleavage any more. The pointy cable needle kept falling over and I had to keep reaching into my bra to fish it out.

This amused me.

The scarf I'm making has one asymmetrical cable.

This amuses me, too.