Tuesday, February 27, 2007

10 minutes

That's all the time it takes to go from feeling healthy and fit to woozy and ill.

But I don't have to do again it for three whole weeks.

Ultrasound early tomorrow morning, echocardiogram on Thursday. The next couple of days will be tough.

But I should feel like myself by the week end. And did I mention that I don't have to have chemo again for three whole weeks?

Monday, February 26, 2007

hodge podge of good things

S. had the day off from school today. We watched a movie (the Adventures of Baron Munchausen), went for a long walk in the sun (with a stop for bagel sandwiches) and then he beat me at Mind's I. It was a good day.

I just came back from dinner with friends.
We were celebrating my birthday. Which was in August. We've had a bit of a hard time coordinating schedules. We had lovely vegan thai food and then went next door to Dairy Queen for Peanut Buster Parfaits. Perfect.

Best of all, I have secured myself a chemo vacation. We are heading south next week (!) and I have managed to delay the start of the next treatment cycle. This means that, after tomorrow, I don't have chemo again until March 27th. I am elated.

S. has asked me to knit him a Dr. Who scarf. D. has asked me to knit him "a green sweater." I am trying to convince him that some other colours would be nice, too. He remains unmoved.

Yesterday's skate on the Rideau Canal, "the world's largest skating rink," was a lot of fun. The boys really impressed me with their improved skills. Skating behind the stroller gives me a lot of stability and makes me look like a competent skater. It makes me laugh, though. Nothing says "Canadian mom" more than bundling up and pushing a giant stroller on a frozen canal.

I didn't post the shot of me skating away from the camera. Let's just say that some angles are less flattering than others. And maybe I need to ease up a little on the chocolate.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

channelling peggy lee

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

I am tolerating chemo relatively well. I am no longer experiencing the rollercoaster of Herceptin side effects. But the routine is grinding me down. Two weeks on, one week off. And there is no end in sight (at least not an end I want to spend much time thinking about).

When I am feeling well (and even much of the time when I am not) I am rarely bored. I am, however struggling to fight some serious malaise. Not that long ago, life felt full of possibility. There were paths to chose and decisions to be made. And if any particular path didn't please me, I could easily change direction and try a new one.

Now that I am not working outside the home (my oncologist says that no insurance company would ever expect me to work again), I have time for other creative pursuits. But I need to shake off the funk brought on by two weeks on, one week off.

I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Today, I am going to do that in a pair of skates. Despite living three minutes (on foot) from the canal, I haven't been skating in a couple of years.

"If that's all there is, my friends, then let's keep dancing."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

ho hum

So the layout of this blog is really boring me.

I have access to technical assistance to change things up but am feeling distinctly uninspired. I played around with the Blogger template this afternoon but ended up making few changes, wanting to keep things clean and accessible.

Any thoughts?

A new banner? Illustrations?

New font?

Larger type?

Any suggestions would be welcome.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

business ventures

As the dog and I walked him to school the other day, my eight year old son and I had the following conversation:

S.: "I have an idea for an internet venture for dogs. I'd call it ismell. The web site would describe a whole list of smells and you could chose the one you think your dog would like best and order a patch with that smell."

me: "That's a great idea! But the smells would have to be pretty disgusting."

S.: "The more disgusting, the more expensive."

me: "Old socks, rotting meat..."

S.: "Exactly. We could have a page listing all the newest smells and the home page would have a list of the top selling smells."

me: "That reminds me, Papa tells me that you were making a vending machine when you were supposed to be in bed last night."

S.: "Yeah. And it works, too. Except no one wants to buy my product."

me: "Why not?"

S.: "Because it costs a dollar and the product is a penny."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I've spent the last several hours sleeping off the Demerol (given intravenously to ward off the side effects I've experienced from Herceptin. It works but makes me very, very stoned). I woke up feeling a little green around the gills, so this will likely be a short post.

Spending time over at Flippy's has got me thinking about how much harder my life would be if Canada did not have socialized medicine and I did not have good private health insurance. The tally, thus far for drugs to bolster my white blood cells (and thus keep me out of hospital) amounts so far to $26,000 (Can). I can't even begin to add the cost of the various and numerous other drugs I've taken, almost of all of which seem exorbitantly expensive (yesterday I picked up a gel to numb my the skin over my portacath, which has become very tender. A very small tube cost fifty bucks. I was told that this was never covered by private insurance. Mine did).

I can't imagine how I would have paid for chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or any other test or treatment (and I have lost count how many) I have needed if public health insurance didn't cover it. The thought is quite terrifying.

I am very lucky to be Canadian, middle class and a union member.

Monday, February 19, 2007

the best of intentions

The plan: Risotto, grilled eggplant, salad. All on the table, with the kitchen cleaned up before my spouse got home from work.

The reality: Tastes like risotto (sort of) but has the consistency and colour of wallpaper paste. The eggplant, overly-salted, is inedible. I pour myself a big glass of wine and head upstairs to check my email while my spouse makes the salad. Clean up after dinner. Leave filthy pots for tomorrow.

Oh well. 'Tis better to have cooked and failed than never to have cooked at all. Right?

Tomorrow is a chemo day. I need to promise myself to take another stab at this cooking thing after I've recovered.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I have never done one of these before....it's a list I borrowed from Sassymonkey. I was bleary-eyed with exhaustion when I started, yet I couldn't resist finishing.

What do the books I've read say about me? What would your list look like?

Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you want to read, cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole (I put xx's before and after, since I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to strikeout), put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf, and asterisk (*) the ones you’ve never heard of.

1. +The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2.+Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. *Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. +A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. + Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. xxAngels and Demons (Dan Brown)xx
13. + Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. +A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. + Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. +Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. * The Stand (Stephen King)
19. + Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. + The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. +Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. + The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. +The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck) (I ought to read it, I've read most of his)
30. * Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. xxAtlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)xx (I loathe Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. +The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. *The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. * I Know This Much is True(Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. *The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. *The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. xxConfessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)xx
44. *The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. +Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) (I should own it; it's one of my all-time faves)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. +The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens) (this is another one I should own)
53. *Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. +Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. +The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. + Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. xxThe Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough) xx
59. +The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand) (did I mention that I loathe Ayn Rand?)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy)
64. xxInterview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)xx
65. *Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. +One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. +Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. *A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. +The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. +Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. +Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck) (I was really into Steinbeck in my teens)
83. xxRebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)xx
84. xxWizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)xx
85. +Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. +The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. *Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. xxKane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)xx
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. *White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. xxA Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)xx
99. xxThe Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)xx
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

in my bones or 'there is no stage V'

The thing about living with Stage IV breast cancer is that every change in how my body functions can feel suspicious. After all, feeling a stitch in my side led to a diagnosis of metastasis. So when, I experienced bloating and (relatively mild) abdominal pain this week I began to feel a bit concerned.

Actually that is a gross understatement. In fact, before yesterday's appointment with my oncologist, I was completely beside myself with pure terror.

You see, I've been feeling good. Really good. And what happened the last couple of times I felt this good? I found a lump in my breast. I found out that the cancer had spread to my liver. I became certain that I was going to be told that my prognosis had just dramatically worse.

But my oncologist was, in his way, very reassuring. He told me that he was pretty certain that what I have been experiencing is 'nothing' (and he confirmed this when he examined me). He doesn't think that my liver is any more swollen than it was a couple of weeks ago. He did, however order another ultrasound, just in case.

As for my fear of spreading, well, he said that I shouldn't worry because it is a certainty that the cancer has spread to other parts of my body. As he put it, cancer cells are not selective about where they go, so I shouldn't worry about it spreading to my other organs and my bones because, well, it's already there.

He said, I should think of my cancer as a chronic illness that we will work at managing with various therapies and that when one stops working, we will try something else. He also said he was much less worried about me than he was in November, "it's a cause for concern when a patient turns yellow."

As I write this, I am pink from the cold and feeling more relaxed than I have in days. Once again, I am reminded of how much fighting this illness is about staying strong emotionally, as well as physically.

Does any of this make sense?

Friday, February 09, 2007

on being afraid

it clutches at my heart
icy fingers squeezing
so hard I cannot breathe.

it whispers in my ear
quiet murmurs disquiet
as I go about life's tasks.

I am ambushed
when I have let down my guard.

Like all intimate relationships
ours ebbs and flows in its intensity
but we never part for long.

I live with fear
but not in fear.

And I will never let fear rule my life.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

breast cancer doesn't discriminate...

Personally, I think the Breast Cancer Society (who are they anyway?) made a big mistake. What do you think?

Exotic dancers' 'stigma' too much for charity

Last Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2007 | 11:22 AM PT

The Breast Cancer Society of Canada has rejected the offer of thousands of dollars from a fundraising group of exotic dancers in Vancouver.

Exotic Dancers for Cancer holds an annual charity event in memory of a former dancer who lost her life to the disease.

Last year, the event raised $6,000.

However, former dancer Trina Ricketts said the society sent her an e-mail declining the money this year, because its major donors did not support a connection to exotic dancers.

She says the society has taken the group's contributions in the past.

"I really feel that it's a strong indication of the degree of the stigma that exotic dancers experience when an organization doesn't even want to be associated with them for fear of experiencing the same stigma."

Ricketts said her group is still looking for a cancer charity that will accept a donation.

The annual event will be held next month at a downtown hotel.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

i love the internet

To all who take the time to let me know that they read and enjoy my blog (whether in the comments, via email or when we talk):

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

That is all.



Tuesday, February 06, 2007

what price peace?

Today was a chemo day (just chemo, no Herceptin), so I have, of course, spent the evening in bed feeling yucky.

From the upstairs bedroom, I overheard the following, which took place on the ground floor of our house:

D., my three-year old son: "I want to watch Scooby Doo Meets Batman now." (incidentally, this is probably one of the worst videos of all time)

Spouse: "It's dinner time. You can watch some of the video after you've eaten. Come to the table now."

D.: "I want to watch Scooby Doo NOW!!!"

Spouse: "D., you have two choices, you can watch the video after you've eaten your dinner or you can go to your room."

[insert increasingly hysterical repetitions of "I want to watch the video now," until they have crescendoed into a full-fledged tantrum.]

S., my eight year old: "D., if you stop crying, I'll give you a penny."

D.: "OK."

D. came to the table and ate his dinner happily. When he was done, S. gave him a penny.

My spouse and I are fully cognizant of the myriad ways in which this was problematic. But we did think the whole thing was pretty funny. And S. did get his brother to eat.

Monday, February 05, 2007

why i am about to spend an hour outside, even though it is -39C with the windchill

Everything Reminds Me Of My Dog

everything reminds me of my dog
the guy in the store reminds me of my dog
telephones remind me of my dog...yoohoo
taxicabs remind me too

if you remind me of my dog
we'll probably git along little doggie
git along git along little doggie git a...

smiling at strangers reminds me of my dog
(better let them know you're friendly)
the way people dress reminds me too
pissing on their favourite tree
sad things remind me of my dog
cockroaches and other insects
remind me too, don't eat them
the blank expression of the little boy
with thick glasses who picks
himself up from the sidewalk
and stands there blinking in the sun
ho oh!

if you remind me of my dog
we'll probably git along little doggie
git along git along little doggie git a...

like the man on the subway
sitting across from me
and every time I looked at him he smiled
and by the time
I got to the end of the subway line
I 'd given him at least ...oh...25 cookies

guys in bars remind me of my dog
the way it takes you so long
to choose the perfect table

if you remind me of my dog
we'll probably git along little doggie
git along git along little doggie git a...

me and my ferocious dog
we're walking down the street
and everyone we meet says
"ach yer a goot doogie !...

"ach yer a goot doogie!..."
"ach yer a goot doogie!..."

except when we go for a walk
to get the Sunday paper
I stand there and read the headlines
he reads the wind
sometimes he hits a funny smell and laughs
I hate it when he does that- I feel so dumb
what? what? I say

everything reminds me of my dog
beautiful things
sunsets remind me of my dog
Gina go to your window
Einstein reminds me of me dog
I want to pat his fluffy head
this whole world reminds me of my dog
my dog reminds me of this whole world
do I remind you of a dog? (thump thump)
I do? (faster thump thump)
skyscrapers remind me of my dog
sitting in the tall grass waiting for a rabbit
guys in red cameros too
it's getting to be a habit
artists remind me of my dog
staking out their originality on the nearest tree
old folks remind me of my dog
my dog reminds old people of their dogs
(Barfy, Ruffo, Beanhead)
Gina says I remind her of the dog
the that way I just did that
golfers teeing off remind me of my dog
the way he sits by me and shifts on his front paws

what is it you want? look at it...
do you want to go for a walk? do you want a cookie?
do you want me to dial the number for you?

(Jane Siberry, from Bound by the Beauty, 1989, Sheeba/Warner Records)

Friday, February 02, 2007

groundhog day, revisited

It was a year ago today that I had my mastectomy.

The memories are still very fresh.

I remember my anxiety turning to raw terror as I lay in the operating room (I could see the surgical tools and hear them clink as they were readied for surgery).

I remember the anesthesiologist's soothing voice. I remember that he asked me about my children in order to get me to relax (this worked much better than when he asked me about work). I don't remember falling asleep.

I remember the euphoria of waking, knowing that it was over. And I remember the whole host of emotions as I rode the rollercoaster to recovery. I still ride that rollercoaster, only now the hills are a little less steep.

I felt sad today, grieving, not just for my lost breast, but for all the ways in which cancer has ravaged my body. Menopause at 38, thinning hair and eyebrows, and, yes, the ridge of scar that runs from the center of my chest to my shoulder (not to mention the loss of mobility brought on by radiation). My face and body have been irrevocably changed by cancer.

So I gave myself permission to be a little bit sad today (and attempted to silence my inner recovering Catholic, which was telling me that I was being self-indulgent and that there are many people in the world who are worse off than I am, which is true but not particularly helpful).

Then a wonderful email exchange prompted me to check out DIY not die and behind the pink and yellow. a living journal. This in turn reminded me that Amanda had blogged about Rebel1in8.

I am honestly filled with excitement, joy and hope by this community of strong, smart women whose lives have been touched by cancer. They are engaged in creative ways to reclaim their bodies, take control of their lives and speak out against the hypocrisy of the cancer industry. Awesome.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

the bell

Some time between my last go-round with chemo (the one that ended in the summer, prior to radiation and the recurrence) and my latest diagnosis, a bell was installed in the chemo room.

It's pretty nifty - when someone completes treatment, she or he rings the bell on their way out and everyone claps. It's a wonderful idea. I remember feeling after my last treatment in June that I would have liked there to be some way to mark the end and my survival.

Hearing the bell ring during my treatment on Tuesday made me happy but also a bit sad. There is unlikely to be a time when I will get to ring that bell, no triumphant moment when the cancer is behind me. My treatments will go on indefinitely and, even when I take breaks, there will likely always be more chemo on the horizon.

I've more or less come to terms with this, and the chemo regimen I'm on is so much gentler than my first experience, especially now that the Herceptin side effects are under control.

I really did get through the first go-round by counting down the cycles (and marking each with a present to myself!). And I did feel triumphant when I finished, even without a bell to ring.

And I still do. That first round of chemo was really hard. Having cancer is hard. But I'm doing OK. Much of the time I feel quite content, even happy. All in all, I think that I'm handling things really well.

One last thing: After reading yesterday's post, my spouse accused me of using my blog to solicit chocolate (actually, he said I was 'shameless'). I was doing no such thing. I swear.

However if folks are looking for fair trade chocolate (ie not blood soaked), you should check out Cocoa Camino. In Ottawa, you find it at health food stores, some grocery stores and all Bridgehead locations, but the Cocoa Camino web site can tell you where to buy their cocoa and chocolate closer to where you live.