One woman's stories, adventures, observations and rants, lived through and beyond metastatic breast cancer.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
enough for today
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
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
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 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
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
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
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.
"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.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
pleasant surprise and a potentially great resource
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
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 Gather.com. 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!
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 Gather.com'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 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.
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
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'):
- "Boycott October" by the Assertive Cancer Patient
- "Beauty in the Dark" by Rebel 1 in 8
- "A Couple of Reasons to Blow off October" by Pocketina at DYI not D.I.E.
- "The Bad Business of Buying for a Good Cause"by Liz Thompson
- "Disease Marketing: The Tales of the Modern-Day Snake Oil Salesmen" by Amanda Shaffer
To come: Organizations that deserve your breast cancer fighting dollars and non-monetary ways to show your support.
To come: Organizations that deserve your breast cancer fighting dollars and non-monetary ways to show your support.
beyond the breast, part 3
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
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?
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
beyond the breast and past the pink
They write great blogs.
We should be aware of their cancer stories, too.
Bone Marrow Poptarts
Love Letters to Little Bear
I am NOT an asshole
Moving Right Along
what's up your butt?
Kicking Ass and Taking Names
Monday, October 01, 2007
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.