Monday, June 30, 2008


I have a new post up at MyBreastCancerNetwork.Com.

I wrote about pulling myself out of the emotional funk, with the help and support of so many of you.

Friday, June 27, 2008

looking out at the world

My computer and my body are both still pretty sick.

I have been thinking though about my tendency to become a hermit when I get to feeling low, missing work and my old life (or give in to the fear, as cancer is still very real presence and I know that I have not escaped it).

Chemo weeks tend to be the worst but I will admit that I have been struggling a bit of late.

I have this friend who refuses to stop calling me, though, even when I don't call back. A friend who calls and leaves me messages that say, "Just checking in!"

A friend who refuses to let me turn completely inward.

I am very grateful.

Monday, June 23, 2008


I am afflicted with my usual pre-chemo malaise.

And something else. I made it a goal this year to write as much as I could about cancer and living with mets and yet, today I am sick of being a cancer patient, sick of cancer and everything about it.

Achieving balance has always been a challenge for me.

My computer is sick today. The fan has died and it will only work for a few minutes at a time. Tomorrow it will go unto the shop (how realistic is it to think that I will get it back on the same day?).

Hopefully, by Wednesday, my computer and I will both be up to writing again.

Friday, June 20, 2008

cancer is a chronic illness

My father-in-law, himself a cancer survivor, sent me a terrific article from the New York Times:

"Cancer as a Disease, Not a Death Sentence"

That about sums it up, for me.

I particularly enjoyed the following anecdote, so reflective of my own experience (the drugs are different, except for the Herceptin):

''Dr. Esteva described a breast cancer patient first treated with a mastectomy and the antiestrogen tamoxifen in 1995. Five years later, cancer had spread to her lungs, prompting treatment with a newer anticancer drug, an aromatase inhibitor. When that no longer worked, her cancer was found to possess a molecular factor, HER-2, and she began treatment with Herceptin, a designer drug tailor made to attack HER-2-positive breast cancer.

Herceptin therapy was able to stabilize her metastases for years, “something we had not seen before,” Dr. Esteva said.

The patient now receives a combination of Herceptin and another drug and enjoys a relatively normal quality of life, the doctor reported.''

The article describes beautifully the approach of my oncologist. First treatment A is tried until that stops working, then treatment B and so on. Ideally, treatment would continue in this way until a cure is found . For the time, being, though many of us are living longer than anyone thought we would and with a pretty good quality of life.

Cross-posted to Mothers with Cancer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

book review: the deceived*

Holey moley! I was in the mood for a page turner and with Brett Battles’ The Deceived, I got that in spades. This book sucked me in and swept me along in the way only a good, action-filled suspense novel really can.

The book’s central character is a mercenary with the alias Jonathan Quinn. Quinn is a ‘cleaner’, hired by government and crime bosses alike to go in and eliminate evidence (and remove bodies) after the violence is over.

In this, the second novel in a series, Quinn is hired to clean out a shipping container, only to find that it contains the body of a man who once saved his life. The man, a former CIA agent, was badly beaten and left to slowly die in the shipping container. He did, however, manage to scrawl a message (in blood, of course), consisting of a series of letters and numbers, on the container wall. And he died clutching a photo of his girlfriend - one that had been taken by Quinn himself when all three had been on a fishing vacation.

Quinn sets out to find out what happened to his friend and soon learns that the man’s girlfriend, Jenny, has disappeared. The reader travels with Quinn to several American cities and, eventually, to Singapore, as he begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together and very quickly puts himself in the line of fire.

The book is well-written (a real necessity for me to enjoy any book. Even with a great plot, badly written prose is like nails on a chalk board), with great dialogue between likeable characters, who manage to be believable despite their existence among the world of “secrets.” And the action scenes are great fun (they certainly got my heart racing).

The book did start to drag near the end (the part that takes place in Singapore), as it took a little too long to build to the climax. And there was one plot twist that I saw coming a mile away. However, there was a terrific ending and a few subsequent plot twists that did surprise, so I consider these to be minor quibbles.

I don’t know if I’ll remember The Deceived in a few weeks’ time but I certainly had fun reading it. If you are looking for some enjoyable summer reading and mysteries are your thing (and you don’t mind a little violent action), then get yourself a copy of The Deceived. I have already ordered the first book in the series from the library.

*This is a review of a book that was sent to me via Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

what inspires you?

I have been feeling kind of burned out lately and completely uninspired.

Perhaps I have been over-extending myself. And as much as I need and want to write about my experiences as a cancer patient, mining that particular vein can be draining (and I am trying really hard not to repeat myself too much in the different venues in which I am writing).

I did my morning pages today, for the first time in a while and I found it to be a tough slog. I started to list the things that inspire me and I realized that I have not really been making a lot of space in my life to do these things. My days have been focused on being productive and, perhaps, when I have had down time, I have not been engaging in the kind of activities that fill me up.

I think this needs to change. Yes, I have deadlines (and the house is a mess) but I think that I might spend less time staring at a blank computer screen, struggling over every word (or surfing the net to avoid writing) if I let myself spend a little time getting inspired.

Here's my list. What would be on yours?

Reading books.


Going for long walks.

Spending time in the arboretum and other beautiful places.

Taking in other people's art.

Listening to music.


Hanging out with friends and family.

Being silly with my kids.

Spending time with my spouse.

Monday, June 16, 2008

i've been here before

Yesterday, we had puppy class.

I have been working really hard with little Lucy, doing our homework and practicing, practicing, practicing. We have 'sit' and 'down' nailed.

Or so I thought.

We didn't walk her before class, as we had been busy with Father's Day activities in the morning and we hadn't wanted to make her too tired. As a result, she was excited and wild from the moment we entered the class.

Despite this, I was pretty confident when the trainer asked if Lucy would be the 'demo dog.' However, although the trainer had a juicy piece of hot dog in her hand, Lucy would not sit or lie down, after several minutes of encouragement.

The trainer passed her back to me and moved on to another dog. I casually signalled to Lucy to sit. She sat. I signalled for her to lie down. She lay down.


Lucy is a very smart dog and in her quieter moments is very obedient. But when she is wild (usually in the evenings, unfortunately for the kids) she is defiant, intransigent and a little bit out of control.

And when she is sweet, she is very sweet indeed.

Reminds me of someone else I know and love.

When D., my youngest son, was a toddler, I wanted to knit a hat for a friend's baby. I tried to measure D.'s head. He refused to cooperate. I kept trying for weeks. I would ask nicely, try sneaking up on him when he was distracted or firmly tell him to sit still. I begged and pleaded. All to no avail.

A few months later, when the hat was finished (I guessed at the size) and mailed off to the recipient, I pulled out my tape measure to check my progress on another project. D. approached me and sweetly asked, "Mama, do you want to measure my head?"

To this day, he wants me to measure his head whenever I am using a tape measure.

Friday, June 13, 2008

otherwise engaged

Today's blog has been pre-empted by an afternoon with my sister, a run in the sun with my son (and my sister), an evening at the park and a really good book.

Update: I have a new post up at MyBreastCancerNetwork.Com.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

my efficient heart

I spent the better part of today at the hospital getting an echo cardiogram and seeing the oncologist.

The good news is that my heart is functioning just fine. It is most likely that there was never a problem and that the echo just gives a clearer picture.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


The hardest thing about membership in my community of cancer bloggers and activists is that we face more than our share of sadness, fear and loss. My friend Jacqueline once remarked that we have not been brought together "by our shared interest in quilting."

Two members of my community got bad news this week and I have been thinking about them a lot. I am struck by Rebecca's humourous description of her recurrence (which involves both potato and spaceship analogies) and Andrea's strength and grace as she choses between more treatment or hospice care.

But I am sad.

And a little bit scared.

I think I am going to go sit outside in the sun with the doggies now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

book review: home girl (building a dream house on a lawless block)*

In this memoir, Judith Matloff tells of quitting her job as an international correspondent (who very frequently worked in war zones), to seek stability and peace in her home country. When she and her husband buy a an affordable (read completely dilapidated) former crack house in Harlem, she finds her war zone skills being put to good use once again.

One of the things that I most appreciated about this book was the author’s intelligent writing and progressive analysis. She has a solid understanding of the economics behind the drug industry (what she doesn’t know at the outset she sets about researching in a way that really spoke to this former researcher) and manages to portray even the most sophisticated of dealers and hardened of addicts (along with those who oppose them) in a somewhat sympathetic light.

This book was a compelling read and the diverse cast of characters had me laughing, crying and turning the pages. I really enjoyed this book and it has made me want to seek out some of Matloff’s more journalistic writing.

*This is a review of a book that was sent to me via Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program.

I just found a link to this promotional video for the book. It's a hoot, whether you've read the book or not. And I think her respect for the members of her community is pretty clear.

Monday, June 09, 2008

mothers with cancer

Some people just seem to be 'doers.'

Since I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, in January 2006, I have bemoaned the lack of resources for mothers with cancer. I have attempted to address this problem by blogging here and by seeking out like-minded women in my online community.

But one woman I know (and I only found her recently through BlogHer, although I can't imagine how I missed this incredible mom, blogger and recent survivor of inflammatory breast cancer), not only noted the lack of resources for moms, she set out to do something about it. Susan (aka Whymommy) proposed a group blog that would act as a resource for mothers with cancer and within days has signed up sixteen moms, registered the domain name, set up the blog, posted profiles and got the word out that it was time for introductory posts to be posted. It all happened so fast, my head is still spinning.

Mothers with Cancer officially launched today and my introductory post went up last Friday. But don't just read my story (many of you know it already), check out the other women who are blogging there as well.

Each story is as individual as the woman who wrote it. We differ in writing styles, kinds of cancer, date of diagnosis, treatment experiences and prognoses. Our children are all different ages and our parenting styles no doubt differ as well. But we are all mothers with cancer, who want the best for our kids and who want to reach out to others who may find themselves in the same situation.

I feel very honoured to be a part of this group.

Update: Speaking of parenting through cancer, my new post is up at

Friday, June 06, 2008

not here today

Oh my gosh but puppies can be a lot of work.

Today, I am here.

And here (tell you more about this on Monday).

I'm afraid I'm too tired to give you anything else. And I am kind of sick of my own stories, you know?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

getting out in the world

Starting this week, I will now be posting twice weekly at, as well as acting as one of their patient "experts" (I cannot tell you how weird it is to see that bright yellow "EXPERT" above my head when I post a reply in their nifty Questions section).

You can check out my first post here.

Let me know what you think.

What other things do you think I should write about? My second post isn't up yet but it's about being your own advocate, speaking up and asking questions (I have lots more to say on this subject and will likely do so in future posts). Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

moments of joy

I have a cherished memory. I was in my early twenties and working in New Brunswick at a summer English language program for adults. Students came from all over the world (but mostly from Quebec) and lived in residence on a university campus.

The staff, most of whom were young, lived in residence with the students and were (in addition to teaching all day and coordinating recreational activities) in charge of patrolling the halls at night to ensure that only English was being spoken (every student signed a contract to that effect and agreed that if they were caught in violation of this rule three times, then they would be sent home. I have never heard of a university based program to be as tough as this one. But it worked). Most of us loved the work but it was intense, exhausting (the hours were very long) and, at times, very stressful. And it was exactly the environment that fostered strong bonds between staff members.

One evening, most of the staff were told that we could have an unexpected day off. At eleven o'clock that night, a bunch of us piled into two cars and drove all night to a friend's cottage (stopping only for gas and to take pictures at the world's longest covered bridge). We arrived at dawn (I couldn't tell you where exactly, but it was beautiful), and a few of us immediately went to put on our suits and go play in the rapids. I remember laughing and playing in the cool water as the sun came up, then crashing for a couple of hours on the cottage floor. Later that morning, we all went for a paddle and I remember drifting lazily in the sun (I am still a very lazy paddler).

We left after dinner that night, to be back in time for work the next morning.

I have lost touch with all of my friends from that day but the memory remains a special one, as a time that I was joyfully living right in the moment.

I was feeling a bit sad the other day as I reflected that I am unlikely to ever have that kind of experience again, what with responsibility, health and (let's face it) age all working against me.

But then I realized that such joyful moments occur routinely, I just need to remember to be open to them. And my kids help a lot with that.

A couple of weeks ago, S. had his birthday party. This was the first such party he wanted in years, so we agreed to go all out and have it at the movie theatre. They were such a nice group of kids and had a great time being silly together! And as I looked down the aisle and took in nine enraptured faces (we saw the new Indiana Jones movie. Good fun), each kid balancing popcorn on skinny knees, I realized that I was having one of those moments. Pure joy.

Cross-posted to Mommybloggers.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

i love the internet

Found this recipe, which became dinner (we had a 'cross rib roast' thawing. I had never heard of such a thing).

When I realized I didn't have rosemary, I asked the internet what to do and found out I could substitute savory.

It was delicious.

I am off to bed very soon (I am as tired as when my kids were babies) and will offer up a more coherent post tomorrow.

Good night.

Monday, June 02, 2008

my little leap of faith

Meet Lucy (she's the furrier one, on the right).

She's a Tibetan Terrier and she has just joined my family.

TTs can live for as long as seventeen years.

How ambitious am I?

We really wanted to get a dog from a shelter or a rescue organization (J-Dog is a rescue and possibly the best dog in the history of dog-dom). But we needed a dog that is healthy, good with kids, other dogs and cats (we almost adopted a wheaten terrier from a rescue group during winter but when the dog met a cat, he tried to eat it. Literally).

And hypoallergenic (D. is mildly allergic to both dogs and cats and we couldn't in good conscious bring another dog into the house who would irritate his allergies).

We also needed a dog who would happily come on long walks or runs with me when I am well and take it easier on the weeks I have treatment.
After a year of cruising the internet and working the phones (I reached out to rescue groups across Canada and into the US), I reluctantly admitted defeat.

So we chose a dog from a very responsible breeder and a relatively rare breed with few genetic health problems.

And she's really sweet and cute, too.

I am almost as exhausted as right after my kids were born.

And very nearly as blissed out.

And, for the record, if something does happen and I am unable to take care of this sweet puppy (who we are all working very hard to train), T. and the boys will take good care of her. And of J-Dog. And even of our belligerent cat.

Because when this family adopts an animal, it's for life.