Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I want to let you all know (those of you who have been asking, wondering or worrying) that the reason I've not blogged since Friday is that I've been incredibly busy and that I haven't fallen completely apart.

I'm still feeling incredibly sad but there have also been some unbelievably beautiful moments in the last few days and those have kept me going.

I'll try and find some time to blog tomorrow afternoon but I wanted to take a moment tonight to say thanks to each one of you who have offered your love, support and understanding.

We're keeping J-Dog as comfortable as we can for as long as we can and I am spoiling him rotten (lots of treats, feeding him from the table, wet food and lots of cuddles).

Goodnight blogosphere. Thank you for reminding me why I love you so much.

Friday, June 11, 2010

10 in june part two: writing through heartbreak

June is a very busy month. The end of the academic year means that there are meetings, plays and endless school-related events (most are fun but they do keep me busy). Also, I've been very distracted because J-Dog (known to us as Jasper Friendly Bear) is very sick.

We are waiting on the biopsy results of tissue taken from several large tumours in his mouth. Honestly, it doesn't look good. Even if the tumours are benign, which is highly unlikely, the surgery to remove the growths would be dangerous and painful (not the mention the fact that having half his upper jaw removed would leave him with a dubious quality of life). Leaving them where they are is out of the question because they are making him very uncomfortable and affecting both his breathing and his ability to swallow.

We love this dog a lot. He's a very sweet old soul, who was born with tremendous dignity, intelligence and loyalty. I can't bear the thought of losing him but I can't stop thinking about it.

And you can imagine that this family would find all of this especially traumatic. As a wise and dear friend said to me, "You have to make sure the kids understand that he's not you." And even as we all understand that, this is all rubbing salt into some wounds that may never fully heal.

This was meant to be a post about writing, though - something I am reminded means more to me than an obligation or an item on a 'to do' list - so let me get back to that now.

Here are my goals for the month (taking up the numbering from where I left off in my last post):

5. Write for ninety minutes, four times a week (or 300 minutes per week). Given how busy I knew I'd be, I thought I'd set a more realistic goal (I'm already behind but not iredeemably so).

6. Write the speech for the Weekend to End Women's Cancers fundraiser (I don't have much of a choice about this one because I'm delivering it on Monday. I've got some detailed notes but a fair bit more work to do. Did I mention that I'm delivering it - at least in part - in French?).

7. Write a first draft of a short story (I've had this idea about Elvis and my home town for a while now).

I'm also going to continue to re-read and edit my draft novel but I'm not going to write that one down as a goal, since it's an ongoing process and I'm on track, thanks to my writing buddy and our regular exchanges and phone meetings.

It felt good to write all of that - about the fear and the grief but also about the goals I have set for myself. Writing gives me hope and a sense of purpose. When I do it well, it gives me confidence.

It's also very therapeutic.

Update: The vet called this evening. It's cancer. We have some choices to make but none will be easy. 

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

10 in june part one: health

The last month has been challenging, as far as my health is concerned. There is nothing seriously wrong with me and as far as the cancer is concerned, I'm in fine shape. Instead, I've been dealing with some unpleasant and uncomfortable digestive issues. Whether this is due to my age or the toll of long term systemic cancer treatment, I don't know. I just know that, by the time I went to see my doctor, I was feeling prettty miserable.

I suspected my gall bladder was the source of the problem but we had the benefit of a recent abdominal CT scan that showed that organ to be fine. My doctor diagnosed me with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (or GERD) and instructed me to stop consuming coffee, tea, chocolate or coffee (my immediate response was the somewhat ironic, "I'll die!" She also gave me some medicine. 

After a couple of weeks, I do feel very much better. I've only been eating tiny amounts of chocolate and I have had a couple of pints of beer (which didn't seem to bother me). What does turn my innards inside out is coffee, something I find to be fairly tragic. I'm now drinking a mug of Matcha green tea every morning and then, only occasionally having a single mug of half-decaf (and I am coming to accept that this needs to be a pretty occasional thing). 

I was feeling pretty bummed out about all of this (haven't I already been through enough?) until one day I was out walking the dogs and I got to thinking. What if I chose to look on this as an opportunity to clean up my diet?

I've also come to realize that fatty foods or eating anything too quickly can give me pain and heatburn. But I should be avoid junk food and mindless eating anyway, so that shouldn't seem like a bad thing.

When life gives you lemons, make lemon water (which also really helps with digestion and I like how it tastes).

Next visit to my doc, I'm going to risk being labelled a hypochondriac and ask to be tested for Celiac's disease (my sister has it, and although I've had the blood test, I know that it can result in false negatives) and also asked to be tested for a stomach bacteria called H. pylori (because a friend just tested positive and really I am a bit of a hypochondriac.

Keeping all those things under consideration, here is the part of my "Ten Things" to do list that addresses health:

1. Make soup twice. I've been having fun on this soup adventure. I've already made chicken soup this month. What surprised me though was that I took a recipe from my nutrionist and altered it significantly to make it more flavourful. On the heels of my made-up cabbage soup from last month, I am displaying a willingness to depart from recipes that I have never been brave enough to do. It pleases me enormously.

2. Do an average of sixty minutes of cardio five times a week (a total of 300 minutes a week). 

3. Start the Running Room beginner program and run/walk three times a week. I'm on track and on week two, which means I'm alternating one minute of walking with one minute of running for twenty minutes.

4. Follow the diet prescribed by my nutritionist, while cutting mysellf some slack (ie letting myself have a cookie or a piece of chocolate every day, eating exactly what I want once a week, cutting down on carbs and increasing fruit and especially low sugar veggies). If my approach isn't moderate, it's not sustainable.

I'm putting the strength training on hold in the hopes that July will be a little less busy and my gut will be healed enought that the thought of sit-ups doesn't make me puke (although I'm not sure if this is a real problem or just a dislike of sit-ups).

I'll save the rest of this month's goals for another post. What's on your to-do list for June?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

speaking to end breast cancer

In 2004, I participated in the Weekend to End Breast Cancer in Toronto.

In 2006, several women participated in Ottawa in my name.

Next week, I'll be speaking at a fundraiser for the same event (now called the Weekend to End Women's Cancers) in Montreal.

Sylvie Grégoire, a two-time breast cancer survivor is organizing the fundraiser luncheon. She was first diagnosed at 38 (the same age that I was at my own diagnosis) and had a local recurrence four years later. She's now, in her words, "healthy and happy!'

This will be the sixth time that Sylvie takes part in this 60 km, two-day event. I am so impressed by this achievement and thrilled to be given the chance to help (I'm also more than a little nervous. I need to speak for around thirty minutes. The thought is a little daunting).
You can contribute as well by making a donation. This is the link to Sylvie's personal page on the Weekend to End Women's Cancers web site.

And, experienced speakers out there, how many words is a thirty minute speech? Mr. Google is offering conflicting advice.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

a lapse in judgment

In the last couple of weeks, I have received two emails from Rethink Breast Cancer, an advocacy organization aimed at younger women. The messages urged me to by tickets for the Rethink Romp, a Toronto fundraiser and party.

I like a party as much the next girl and the idea of a superhero themed party made me smile. I love superheroes.

I eagerly clicked through to check out the "Shazamer", an interactive site where I could make my own superhero. At that point, the fun came to a screaming halt, as I read the words: "Show of your six packs and your great racks in support of Rethink Breast Cancer".

It's a great site, with some really cool interactive features but the model is built like Barbie and the "Superheroes" title bears the sub-head "with a great rack comes great responsibility."

The idea that a group of diverse, smart breast cancer advocates sat around a table and decided that this was a good idea is just inconceivable to me. Even more shocking is that this idea went from that table to a high profile, glossy campaign without someone shouting, "Hey wait a minute! Don't you all think this is a little insensitive?"

Yesterday, I sent Rethink this brief email:

Has no one complained to you about this?

A breast cancer organization talking about "great racks"? What if you only have half a rack or none at all? Can I still be a superhero if I'm not white [I did discover after I sent the note, that you can change the skin colour of the model, once you get inside the game but both the male and female superhero start as fair and light-haired] , with big boobs and able-bodied?

I love the idea and I love the spirit of fun and celebration to which you are clearly aspiring. I just don't understand how a group of breast cancer advocates sat down together and agreed that this is the best imagery and wording for this event.

So disappointed.

I haven't heard back yet. Rethink Breast Cancer has a great mandate and does good work. I love the spirit of fun they try and inject into their work. With this campaign, though, the organization has displayed a serious error in judgment.
super me
a one-breasted warrior
with really great boots
a rhea belle top
and some seriously funky accessories (thanks to Babz for that suggestion)
generous hips (the better to shoot from)
crows feet
and smile lines
and always compassionate
but ready to kick ass
when she needs to.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

may's ten things: how i did

Here's how I did with May's "To Do" list (still playing along with the List Lovers at BlogHer):

As with previous months, completed tasks are in blue, partially done tasks are in green and the tasks I didn't even started in purple.

1. Spend an average of eight hours writing a week (I didn't even come close but I did make some progress on the editing of the draft novel and I started meeting - and exchanging writing - with my awesome writing buddy so I'm going to give myself partial credit anyway).

2. Do strength training at least twice every week (I did it once all month but I've been suffering from some gastrointestinal issues that made strength training, especially ab work, less appealing. It's pretty lame but it's all I've got).

3. Do an average of five hours of cardio every week (Completed and exceeded this goal!).

4. Make soup twice (I made the sweet potato spinach one I mentioned in last month's post and another one that I made up with cabbage and Indian spices. This business of winging it is a new development for me and I'm very pleased).

5. Sort through my clothes (Carried over from February, March and April and still not done).

6. Finish making summer plans for my family. (It's very nearly done. I just need to book my youngest into a couple of weeks of day camp).

7. Go to at least one bike store and do some test rides.
8. Spend one afternoon every week doing something fun or relaxing.

9. Finish one knitting project.

10. Spend one afternoon per week just dealing with this to-do list.

So that's six things accomplished, two partially done (and one of those could almost be in the 'done' category) and two not yet finished.

I'm pleased with my progress but I'm also aware that two of the items that got short shrift (the clothes and the writing) are things I really wanted to do.

I'm organizing myself differently for June but I'll tell you about that in another post. 

Friday, June 04, 2010

well, hello there


It's been a while, hasn't it?

I seem to have lost my blogging mojo. I remember a while back when Average Jane wrote that her blogging had been derailed (my word, not hers) by Twitter and Facebook. I get that now.

Whenever I have a quick observation or a link to share, I can gratify myself instantly with Twitter (I'm lauriek, by the way). And while each tweet does go to Facebook and the sidebar of Not Just About Cancer (on the right - see it there?), it hasn't done much for my blogging.

I don't want to give up the blog though, so I'll try and re-commit to posting regularly (how's that for hedging my bets?).

On the cancer front, there is a little news. I loved having a break in April. That month also brought another clean CT scan. My oncologist continues to be happy with how things are going (or not going, really).

We talked a bit more with about the weirdness of being in ongoing treatment (with side effects that are cumulative, both physically and emotionally). He talked frankly (one of the things that I love about him) about how, in my case, he really has no idea what to do.

We don't know what would happen if I were to take a longer break from treatment or stop it altogether.

"You're a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma," he said, quoting Churchill.

He said that, theoretically, we could start our own clinical trial, where half the women stop treatment for three months and half continue as I've been doing.

"But then what do you say to the women in the first group, if the cancer comes back? 'Oops?' 'Im sorry?' " (I'm convinced that the man lies awake at night wondering about these things. His compassion is another thing I love about him).

He has a way of putting things into perspective for me.

I had planned on asking for another break in six months but he surprised me by suggesting I take a break in August (hooray!)

He also said that, some time in the future, he's not sure exactly when, he's going to feel ready for me to take a longer break. Meanwhile, I'll have fewer appointments with him and, unless I'm worried about something, I can call them in (another hooray!).

I am very pleased about all of this but I admit to also feeling a little blue. I'm still dealing with some of the "grey area" fallout. It's really hard to articulate (and I feel guilty for even complaining. Guilt would be a good subject for a whole other post).

Life is a funny thing. And it's really hard to plan even five years ahead, because you never know what's going to happen. I'm trying right now to return my focus to living in the moment, accepting what is and reminding myself to notice the good things.