Monday, December 31, 2007

happy new year

Wishing all of us good health, good tidings and an abundance of love and joy in 2008.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

10 lb terrorist

This is Eli.

He is asleep on the dog bed that J-Dog got for Christmas.

J-Dog really likes his bed but Eli really, really likes it, too.

Eli weighs 10 lbs.

J-Dog weighs more than 50 lbs.

But J-Dog always defers to Eli, who I recently decided is related to the Fishing Cat.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

things i can count on: boys will be boys and a dog will have dinner

My spouse left the kids in the back yard while he went to shovel the front walk. When he returned, D. was digging and shovelling looking focused and determined. Nine year old S. was nowhere to be seen.

Turns out he was completely buried in snow.

I am choosing not to be disturbed by this (although D. did look like he was really enjoying himself) and instead, to be pleased that they were playing together without fighting.

This is another rare sighting of my children playing together.

And this is where it all falls apart.

And this? It's a picture of my dog having his Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Except cranberry sauce. Because that would be excessive.

when do my children go back to school?

Just asking.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

kingston women get down

Taken this morning, under the influence of coffee with Baileys.

Whatever you're doing, whatever you celebrate, wishing you love and laughter this holiday season.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Sometimes the most amazing things happen.

Or are done by amazing people.

Two weeks ago we had nineteen people to our house for a family Chanukah party. The cooking was shared (my spouse refers to Chanukah as "the festival of fried things"), the cleanup was shared and everyone had a great time.

After the meal, the children in the family exchanged presents.

There was also a package with my name on it. As I started to protest that this was against the rules, I was told that it was something special from my oldest niece (she'll be twelve this year).

It turned out that she had knit me a hat. It was her first non-scarf project and it is perfect. It's the most beautiful shade of turquoise, fits beautifully and just happens to be the exact same colour as the turquoise flecks in the scarf that I wear every day. And it looks great on me.

Just that week, I had tried to knit myself a hat but there was something wrong with my yarn or the pattern and it hadn't worked out. Just that day, I had been thinking how much I love it when people knit things for me and that I wish it would happen more often.

I love that hat with a passion because it is perfect and because it was so thoughtfully and carefully made, just for me.

And I have another example of an amazing thing.

I have been feeling kind of down lately. Part post-NY and Chanukah let-down, part grief for my old life and part chemotherapy blues, I've been feeling the dogs of depression nipping at my ankles. I've been fighting them off (and figuring out how to be healthier) but it has been a bit of a struggle (and of course the sadness is compounded by the guilt of a recovering Catholic: "I should be ashamed to be feeling so sorry for myself when I have responded to treatment so well, have good insurance and such great support!").

Two days ago, I wrote about feeling uninspired.

Yesterday, a book appeared in my mailbox, bound with a ribbon, on which was written the following:
"I like reading your blog and I find inspiration from it. Here is a book for you, may it bring you inspiration."
(It was from J., an artist friend, with whom I once worked closely and haven't seen in a long time. To think I inspire her means a great deal to me).

You know the expression "my heart lifted"? I now know exactly how that feels.

And how could she possibly have known that I have been scouring the Internet for patterns for knitted bags?

Sometimes, life is very hard. And it's not true that everything happens for a reason.

But sometimes, the right thing happens at exactly the right time. Or good people know to make good things happen.

The picture above was taken yesterday from the my spouse's downtown office window. Perhaps not the brightest woodpecker in the world, but I thought his appearance was pretty amazing, too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

a very short post

The last couple of weeks have been unbelievably busy.

Off to chemo shortly.

More time to blog, as I recover.

Go read Jacqueline's account of my trip to New York. She made me a little weepy. And she pretty much said exactly what I would have about our time together.

Kindred spirits, indeed.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

december 6, 1989: why i am a feminist

Eighteen years ago today, a gunman walked into the engineering school of the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, separated out the women and opened fire after declaring his hatred of "feminists."

I remember exactly where I was at the moment I found out, how I felt as the details emerged. I also remember the outrage and pain I felt in the aftermath, when mainstream Canada refused to accept that these women were killed because they were women, aspiring to work in a male dominated field.

No one disputes that fact now.

They call it the Montreal Massacre and the killer has achieved the kind of recognition posthumously that he sought in life.

I will not re-print his name here.

I will, however, name each of the young women who died that day. Twelve of them were engineering students, one an administrator and one a nursing student. They would all be my age (or very close to it right now). When I think of all I have lived since December 6, 1989, I am reminded that these women and those who loved them were robbed of a very great deal.

Geneviève Bergeron.

Hélène Colgan.

Nathalie Croteau.

Barbara Daigneault.

Anne-Marie Edward.

Maude Haviernick.

Maryse Laganière.

Maryse Leclair.

Anne-Marie Lemay.

Sonia Pelletier.

Michèle Richard.

Annie St-Arneault.

Annie Turcotte.

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

wonderful wonderful, wonderful

It's as though I didn't know any other adjective, I've used it so much over the last few days.

But it really is the best possible way to describe my long week end in New York with Jacqueline.

I now own two Rebel 1 in 8 designs. Click here and here for pics. Don't I look happy? She made me feel so beautiful.

Jacqueline also made me my very own Rebel necklace, something I have wanted for a long time.

But the joy is about more than the stuff I got (although I do love the stuff I got). It's about kindred spirits, never running out of things to talk about, experiencing unfathomable kindness and being inspired by people and place, touch, taste and sound.

I have been back since late last night and I am still all aglow.

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

enough for today

I have been struggling a little these last few weeks.

It's around this time last year and the year before that cancer changed my life and I've been finding it hard to shake the grief and anxiety.

But today, I experienced a moment that quite literally took my breath away. I was out walking my dog in the arboretum, pretty much lost in thought when I was taken off guard by a tree, a pond, the sunset and scattered leaves in all my favourite colours. And the thought suddenly came to me, "I am grateful."

Grateful for my kids for bringing me joy, making me laugh and for needing me.

Grateful for my spouse, who is kind and gentle and who loves me even when I am crazy.

Grateful for my dog who gets me out walking.

Grateful for a lovely walk in a beautiful place.

And grateful that I am healthy and fit enough to enjoy it all.

Tomorrow remains uncertain but for today, it is enough to be grateful.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

getting out in the world

Well, folks, I am now a "contributing author" (I accidentally typed "contributing other", which could make sense, too) over at (how clever were they to register that domain name?).

I was very flattered to be asked to write for them (the women who founded Mommybloggers are very interesting women and terrific bloggers).

And I am not above asking you all to go check me out (and maybe even comment over there).

Friday, October 26, 2007


I've laid them out randomly, in order to try and figure out how to lay them out. Wishing my artist friends were handy to tell me what to do. I feel like I'm too close to it.


There are a couple of squares I think I need to unravel and reknit, though:
See that one with the dark border? It's got to go.

I'm also wondering about the low contrast (light blue and turquoise) one just beneath it. There are two of those and I think they might have to go, too.


I think I'm going to keep it like this for the week end and play with moving the squares around a little.

Update: I came home to find that one of the pets (not sure if it was the cat or the dog) did a little creative re-arranging while I was gone.


Maybe I'll just sew the squares together randomly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

conference for young women living with breast cancer

Has anyone heard about this?

It's a national conference for young women with breast cancer (young in breast cancer terms being under forty-five). The program looks amazing (and more than a little ambitious). And it's relatively cheap: three days and evening events for $150 (although I wonder if they have extended the "early bird rates" because registration is low).

It's in Toronto, November 2-4, so it's easy for me to get to (and I have any number of people with whom I could stay) so I am seriously considering it.

Anyone else out there planning to go?

Monday, October 22, 2007

looks like fall, feels like summer

I'm back on my feet.

I was knocked flat by the one-two punch of cold and chemo but I am doing much better now, thank you very much.

Today, it was ridiculously warm out. I went for a long, lovely walk along the river. I dressed too warmly since I refused to accept that it should feel like summer outside at this late date.

Tomorrow will be cold and drizzly. And another chemo day.

So you'll forgive me for neglecting the blog in favour of the sun.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

on colds, clicks and chemo

I have great kids and we have been having a lovely time together during my stint as a single parent.

We all have colds. Young D. is back at school but older S. has been off for the last two days.

My spouse is in Paris (with a head cold and coming home tomorrow, I hope his sinuses are OK on the trip), thanks to his dad.

I have chemo today, if they don't veto it because of my cold.

My mom-in-law is here in the land of snot to help with the kids when I go down for the count. What are the odds of her staying healthy?

Finally, if you have a minute, please click on the link in my side bar to take a survey. It's for BlogHer Ads so they can find out more about demographics, to help with ad placement (and so they can sell ads to a broader range of advertisers).

And, if you feel like it, you can click on whatever other ad is there too (the more clicks the better!).

I made a whopping $25.41 in September. But the way I see it, it's found money (five lattes, one pizza dinner, a trip to the movies or four packs of cold medicine). I have been happy with the kinds of ads that have run on my blog. And readership is up, so that's cool too.

I did mention the fact that Canadians have not been eligible for any of the giveaways so far. I am told that, as markets expand, BlogHer Ads hopes to recruit more Canadian advertisers.

Going to go blow my nose now.

Friday, October 12, 2007

making like a duck

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

My spouse is away on a well deserved vacation and I am playing at being a single parent.

I had been imagining all the fun things my kids and I would do together. Go for bike rides, to the park, the library. I would get my writing and errands out of the way today and even have time for lunch with a friend I haven't seen for a couple of years.

But the weather sucks, my oldest has been testing his limits and my four year old has come down with a miserable cold. I cancelled my lunch date, am behind on my writing and feeling like the world's worst mother (how many consecutive hours should any child be allowed to watch TV, even when he's sick?).

My spouse left yesterday.

So D. (the sick four year old) and I put on a cd this morning and danced around. I promised S. a movie this evening. Things may not be going the way that I'd planned but we'll roll with it.

The minute that the sun comes out, I am throwing on some clothes (did I mention that I am still in my pajamas?), bundling D. in the stroller and going for a walk. I'm washing my hands a lot so that I don't get sick. I'll see if I can set up a play date for S. this week end.

In the days before cancer, this turn of events would have left me feeling pretty bitter.

Now I'm only a little bitter.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

etching myself in their memories

"I'm starting to forget Emma."

My nine year old son said this to me a couple of days ago.

Our old dog died last summer. She was very nearly fourteen and had had a great life but her passing was a sad event for my little family.

"I can't really remember what she looked like or the things she liked to do," he went on.

"That's perfectly normal," I replied.

"Is it?"

"Yes, and that's why we tell stories about our loved ones who've died, to help each other remember them."

"Like the time Emma almost drowned Grandpa?"

"That's right. And you have lots of pictures, too."

That was pretty much the end of our conversation but it did put a lump in my throat.

I'm in remission but I do know what the statistics are when it comes to Stage IV breast cancer. I try not to torture myself with these but I know that I will die long before I am ready.

The thought that I might become a hazy memory to my children is something else on which I try not to dwell.

But it hurts.

This morning, I was cuddling with my youngest, covering his little head with kisses. I felt both intensely happy and very, very sad.

"Remember this moment," I wanted to whisper.

"Remember me."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

pleasant surprise and a potentially great resource

Last Monday, I was asked to participate in a conference call.

I loathe conference calls. There is something about not being able to see people's faces that seems to bring out the worst in all participants. I usually avoid them like I would like to have avoided cancer.

So when I received an email request from Revolution Health to participate in a conference call prior to the launch of their online breast cancer support group, I cringed.

I get a lot of these kinds of requests.

But there was something in this email that stood out for me. It was very clear that Tim, the staffer who'd written to me had actually taken the time to read my blog and think about what I'd written there. I was impressed.

So, I agreed to be on the call.

It was amazing.

The Revolution Health team members all appeared to be genuinely interested in what we had to say. Hester (an oncology social worker and herself a survivor) and Carolyn seemed genuinely committed to the building of an online community for those whose lives have been affected by breast cancer.

But the best part for me was the interaction with the three other breast cancer bloggers on the call. Amazingly, we were all under 40 when we were first diagnosed. We were all very well-informed and highly opinionated. I have never, ever had a conference call fly by that quickly.

I was so happy to meet Minerva (a Woman of Many Parts), Jeanette (Two Hands...) and Jenny (At Least it's a "Good" Cancer). We pretty much took over the call, from the first question. The energy and the passion that we all feel was palpable.

Revolution Health claims to be trying to build "the best breast cancer resource on the web." I haven't had time to really explore the site yet, but I have been impressed with what I have found there. Their online support group just launched yesterday (I just joined). It remains to be seen how well this will work (support groups, are after all, what the participants make of them) but Revolution Health appears to have laid down a good foundation.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

out of the mouths

Over dinner the other night, I was trying to figure out with my spouse how I could watch or record my friend Jacqueline, when she appeared on the New York ABC affiliate on Saturday night (I was ultimately unsuccesful, to my great disappointment).

My older son, S., asked why I wanted to watch it: "What if it's just a show with a bunch of women talking about how much they hated getting cancer?"

Me: "No, it's going to be much more than that. The woman who wrote "Cancer Vixen" is going to be on.

S.: "Oh, I know that book!" (he is seriously into graphic novels)

Me: And Jacqueline makes amazing jewelry. She also makes beautiful clothing for women who have lost a breast."


D., my four old, then piped up: "Mama, you've lost a breast. You should get some of that clothing."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

not spamming you

Rachael from Yarn-a-Go-Go has written a romance novel. She's entered in a contest at Now we all have to go and read the first two chapters and, if we like them, vote for her book to be read by Simon and Schuster (see below for details).

For the record, I don't read romance novels but since I love Rachael's blog, I did check her chapters out and I loved them. I urge you to read the letter from her, below, follow the links and if you like what you read, please vote for her.

Dear friend/coworker/exboyfriend- slash-girlfriend/landlord,

My knitting-romance-writing friend Rachael has an urgent plea which I have pasted below. Please make her LIFE for her by voting for her, and if you enjoy it, please pass this email along!

Hi there.

Please forgive the mass mailing -- I have a favor to ask.

I'm in a competition you may have already heard about. I wrote a book, a romance, full of yarn and alpacas and sheep and hot knitter-on-shepherd action (no, really). I entered it in's First Romance Competition. I posted the first chapter, and it garnered enough votes to move on to the second round (in the top 25 of more than 300), so I'm thrilled to say that I'm a finalist, with people now voting on the second chapter. It's kind of an American Idol type of thing, if you can imagine, and this second round is still vote-driven, and the the most important thing to know is that if I end up in the top three, with the most votes, I move on to the last round where THE WHOLE NOVEL IS READ BY SIMON & SCHUSTER and their favorite is published. Oh, my god. I would like that. I would love that.

So I need your vote. I *really* need your vote. I'm in the top four right now, and the three people ahead of me have LOTS of friends. I need to be in the top three to move on, and you will make ALL the difference.

Here's what you do: Read chapter one, but don't vote on it. That one is nice and content and voted on as it is. Please ignore the typos. They hurt my soul, but they're there.

Then read chapter two and please DO vote. If you like the chapter at all, please give it a 10, as they only count 10s (they throw out all votes of 1-9). The chapters with the most 10-votes win.

Even though I know you want to, don't vote more than once, since they're watching for IP fraud. And you DO have to register with their site in order to vote, but they won't spam you, and they don't share or sell email addresses. They will send you a daily email which you can easily opt out of.

Oh, please, please? And will you forward this note on if you like the chapter? To all YOUR email contacts?

Thanks so much. Here you go:

Don't vote on chapter one:
DO VOTE on chapter two:

All my thanks. Really, ALL my thanks. It means so much. Whoo-hooo!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

not in my name

In 1992, when I adopted my first dog, I started noticing dogs everywhere I went.

When I was first pregnant and then became a mom, it seemed like every woman I saw was having a baby.

So last October, when it seemed to me that the whole world had turned pink, I first chalked this up to my own increased awareness. Then I realized that there was something much more insidious behind the pink ribbon bandwagon. And I wrote about it here, in a post-entitled "Not Enough to Think Pink."

These are just some of the things I have come across or been asked to promote in the last couple of weeks:

Pink acrylic sweaters with little pink ribbons on them.
Pink vaccuum cleaners.
Pink towels promoting a sports beverage.
Pink candies.
Pink manicures (there is a nail place down the street from me that is decorated in pink that claims to donate part of its profits to "fight breast cancer." I mean, I love a good pedicure as much as the next girl but do you know how many carcinogens there are in nail polish?)
Pink coffee mugs.
Pink yogurt.
Pink soup.

When someone you love gets cancer, it is very normal and understandable to feel that you want to do something for them. But please don't let that inclination lead you to buy some crappy, plastic doo-hickey (pink and gold-coloured angel pins, for example) that was made under dubious working conditions and that created carcinogenic by-products in the process.

Fight the urge to buy something pink, just because the company tells you that some of the proceeds will go to "fight breast cancer" (fight it how, exactly?).

If I sound pissed off, it's because I am. I resent big corporations (many of whom have built empires contributing to rising cancer rates) increasing their profit margin while improving their philanthropic image. And I resent that this disease that has ravaged my body, shortened my life and cost me so much is associated with the kind of pale pink crap that idealizes a kind of subservient femininity that I loathe. I resent big business getting richer when breast cancer patients get poorer. And I really resent feeling exploited.

Suzanne Reisman is a contributing editor over at BlogHer and she wrote the following in "Pink Ribbon Madness: Say No to Breast Cancer Exploitation for Corporate Profit":

Corporations push breast cancer in October because it works to sell more products. Women worry that some day they will face breast cancer or already know someone who has. They want to help. And what way is better than to buy something that promises to do good? The reality is that very little of the amount women spend on the pink products wind up at charitable institutions. An ABC News Report from last October pointed out that Campbell's donated a whopping 3.5 cents for every can of soup it sold. To raise a mere $36 to fight breast cancer from the Yoplait campaign, a person needs to eat three cups of yogurt a day for four months.

Some companies may well be genuinely well-intentioned. And sometimes they donate all of the profits from a particular product to breast cancer research. But even this leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Jeanne, from the Assertive Cancer Patient explains this well in a post called, "Gag me with a Pink Ribbon" (I love that title!):

[In 2004] I work[ed] as a freelance Web writer for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, where I'm also a patient, receiving ongoing treatment for metastatic breast cancer. I recently sampled the pink dessert at the Dahlia Lounge in order to write about it for the SCCA site—and it was delicious... I enjoyed every bite, except for the ribbon, which I left on the side of my plate. The dessert costs $8.

So let's do the math. You order the dessert for $8, plus a cup of coffee for, say, $2. Add in tax and tip, and the bill comes to about $13. Of that, the restaurant gives Athena the net profit, generally between $3 and $4, according to Trish May, founder of Athena Partners and a breast cancer survivor herself. The Dahlia Lounge had sold 34 desserts in five days. So, say they sell 204 in the month; that's only a donation of about $800. Pocket change. One small research project costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, if not more.

There's a simpler solution: Skip dessert and send $8, or the whole $13, directly to your favorite hospital or research center. I don't like to criticize local restaurants that step up when asked to raise money for cancer research, but I think the "pink dessert" campaign is misguided.

If you really, really want that piece of cake with pink frosting, by all means, go ahead and indulge.

Just don't do it in my name, OK?

Further reading (or 'women who've said it much better than I can'):

To come: Organizations that deserve your breast cancer fighting dollars and non-monetary ways to show your support.

beyond the breast, part 3

Here's a new link (forwarded by Scarlett), to another great blog:

Followed Lingling as She Gave Lymphoma a Beatdown

I am in awe at the number of great cancer blogs that there are out there. Keep the referrals coming.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

beyond the breast, part 2

In the comments on yesterday's post, Sara from Moving Right Along suggested two more blogs.


As the Tumour Turns

The writing styles are quite different but both blogs are exquisitely written, thought-provoking, moving and amusing. I am a fan.

I think I might make this an October-long series. Any more suggestions?

Monday, October 01, 2007

happy october

I have this bag that I got at the BlogHer conference. It's a messenger style bag, light weight (key when you can only carry a bag on one shoulder due to lymphedema), reasonably rugged, a good size (big enough for wallet, knitting and notebook but not so big it feels awkward). And it looks good. I own lots of bags but this freebie has become my favourite.

Until recently, there was only one thing wrong with it. As a freebie, it came emblazoned with two logos. The first is for BlogHer, an organization for which I am happy to advertise. The second was for General Motors, a major sponsor of the '07 conference.

Until recently, I put up with the GM logo because I like the bag so much. Then, last Tuesday, workers at GM across the US went on strike and GM reacted with massive layoffs here in Canada. That was the impetus I needed to bring an end to my status as a walking billboard.

I was at the cancer centre for chemo when I heard about the strike and spent the morning pondering what to do. I couldn't cut the logo out, as there was no way to do so without cutting a hole in the bag. I resolved to cover up the GM patch but remained unsure whether to attempt to sew something on or to resort to masking tape.

When I arrived home, I opened the mailbox and found the solution to my problem. My bag now sports a button, courtesy of Jeanne Sather of the Assertive Cancer Patient. It's text reads "Boycott October! Don't buy PINK products. Don't EXPLOIT women with breast cancer."

The strike is now over but the button will stay on my bag.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


That's what someone googled to find my blog today.

I love it.

And whoever you are, I hope you found what you were looking for here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

i made it out alive

Well, it was really hot and pretty buggy but we survived. The Bill Mason Outdoor Education Centre is a pretty amazing place.

It was quite the day. My son is in a class of children designated as "profoundly gifted." These kids are not only very bright but they tend to be a little quirky (or as the wonderful psychologist who did Sacha's testing said, "just a little bizarre").

There was a time when I thought I would never put a child of mine in a gifted class, since I thought of such programmes as elitist. That was before I learned about the emotional and social challenges that these kids can face. In fact, I have come to realize that the gifted programme is a form of special education that helps equip kids to function in the world. Not all the kids in S.'s class fit this profile, but a significant percentage of them do, simply because these are the kids that most need the gifted programme.

At any rate, all these lovely eccentricities manifested themselves today (like the kid who wore shorts, despite the poison ivy warning, along with a rain coat and winter gloves. Did I mention it was really hot?) along with awesome intelligence ("Actually, it's not air that animals need but the components of air") a keen level of engagement and a wicked sense of humour.

My favourite part of the day's programming? The kids played a game called "Predator and Prey". Each child was assigned the role of herbivore, omnivore or carnivore and had to hunt for food and water, while evading predators. The adults were given soft balls and told we represented bad weather, fire, pollution and other factors that might affect an animal's ability to survive. We got to spend the next half hour throwing balls at the kids in the name of education. It was a blast.

S. was so glad to have me there. He really likes to hang out with his mom. As we were leaving today, he said, "Thanks for agreeing to be a participant today."

And then, when the teacher asked the kids to thank the parent volunteers, he leaned over and kissed me.

I melted.

I'll put up with a lot, even a noisy school bus (and boy, was it loud) for one of those moments.

I am so tired now that I can barely move.

I kept it together enough to bring S. and a friend home from school, give them a snack and make a nice dessert (from What to Eat Now, my new favourite book), take the dog for a walk and read D. a bed time story.

And I only became hysterical three or four times.

Chemo tomorrow. Hopefully this will be an easier round.

give me strength

I am going on a field trip today, with my nine year old son's class.

Twenty-four kids. Twenty of them boys.

That is not a typo.

Wish me luck.

Friday, September 21, 2007

ongoing or neverending?

First conversation:

Nurse, doing my pre-chemo blood-draw: "So are you almost done?"

Me: "No."

Nurse (chirping): "Yup!"

Me: "I have metastatic cancer, so treatment will continue for the forseeable future."

Nurse: "Yup!"

Second conversation:

Nurse setting up my chemo: "You must be almost done."

Me: "No, actually. I have metastatic cancer and will be in treatment for some time."

Nurse: "Well, they usually only give Herceptin for a year."

Me (Too worn out to explain that this is not the case when Herceptin is being used to treat cancer that has spread or metastic): Hmmm.

Am I wrong to hold health care providers to a higher standard?

Don't get me wrong, the nurses are, generally speaking, wonderful. And busy. So I don't expect each one of them to have read my chart.

But shouldn't oncology nurses know enough about differences in treatment protocols to not ask these kinds of questions if they don't really have an interest in the answers?

Just asking.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

seven things: my first meme

The fabulous Pocketina of DIY not DIE tagged me for my first meme the other day. This strikes me as a great way to try and shake off my habitual post-chemo blues.

The rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself: some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

I have been thinking about this for the last couple of days, as there probably aren't many things that regular readers don't already know about me (and many of the things you don't know are things I will never tell!). I have however, managed to come up with a few....

7 Random Facts about me:

1. I had my nose pierced when I was 21. I was in India (on Canada World Youth) and a bunch of us had it done at the same time. The piercing was done with a sharpened piece of copper wire.
That is how I found out that...

2. I am allergic to copper.

3. I am the poster child for the programs of the post Lester Pearson/Pierre Trudeau era in Canada. I participated in the Terry Fox Centre (a week long session on government for 16 year olds from across Canada), attended Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (200 students - 50 from Canada, the rest from all over the world - all of us on scholarship, in residence for two years, in Victoria, British Columbia), taught French to children of francophone parents (I worked in Powell River, BC) and participated in the aforementioned Canada World Youth. All great examples of Canadian tax dollars at work (and all but CWY and Pearson College are now defunct). Many of the things I have since achieved have been due to the foundation created by these programmes.

4. I ran a half marathon in October 2000. I trained and ran it with my sister (who willingly slowed herself to my pace). I will never forget her encouraging words as I we climbed up that last hill (University Avenue, for those who know Toronto) and I whimpered that I wasn't going to make it, "You are damn well going to finish this thing!" It is still one of my proudest achievements and I never could have done it without her.

5. I admit this guiltily, but I was relieved to give birth to two boys.

6. I hated being pregnant and suffered from ante-natal depression, that lifted immediately after giving birth.

7. I am a compulsive list maker. I keep lists of just about anything you can imagine.

OK that's me all done. Now it's your turn. I tag Chris (who will hate me for this), my two new post BlogHer friends Mom2Amara (who I challenge to write 7 things that are not part of her 101 things) and Blondie (from Tales from Clark Street), Amanda (because I miss her and want her to start writing again), Scarlett (of Bone Marrow Poptarts), Babz (of LoveBabz: A Life in Transition) and finally, the guy who started a blog called Wayne's Whines but has never really written there. He also happens to be my spouse, I'd love him to start writing and I am really, really curious to know what seven things he will choose.