Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Yesterday was a chemo day, so I don't have much in the way of original thought to offer up to you.

It was more stressful and a longer day than most but made infinitely easier by the presence of my friend T. We had lots to talk about and she ably distracted me when I felt the stress levels rising (the guy beside me was, for much of the time, having a shouted conversation with the man across the "pod."). She even tucked me in very sweetly as I settled in for my post Demerol nap.

Between bloodwork and chemo, T. and I went out to lunch at The Green Door. Over our veggies, we got to talking about food. I've been seeing a nutritionist, who has made some initial adjustments to my diet (minimal sugar, no dairy, more raw food, a high quality protein with every meal or snack). Since I told the nutrionist that I drank no more than five drinks a week, I've also been trying to stick to that. What I need to figure out is what exactly constitutes a drink. Is a pint of beer one drink? Two? One and a half?

T. told me that her doctor has been telling all his patients to stick to the following formula: 0-2-9-14

0 - at least one night every week you have no booze at all.

2- no more than 2 drinks at any given time.

9- women should have no more than 9 drinks per week.

14 - the maximum for men.

That makes sense to me and doesn't seem too onerous. Of course, if one is hoping to lose weight, drinking less (or not at all!) makes sense. Empty calories, decreased willpower, increased appetite...there really are lots of sensible reasons to forego the booze. I do enjoy beer and wine, though and don't do well when I try to cut anything I like out completely.

What do you think?

Friday, March 26, 2010

inside laurie's head

saying "no" to:

beating myself up

people who make me feel bad about myself

feeling ashamed

hiding from people who love me

giving into my fears


Saying "yes" to:

spending time with the people who fill me up

reading for pleasure

tapping my own creative resources

trying new things


talking to my Mom more often

giddy about:

all the great books that are available to read

the way my kids and spouse make me laugh until I cry

dog bellies and snouts

the potential of things I could knit

the thought that I am a Writer

scared of:


not being able to read, or write, walk my dogs or play with my kids

writing fiction and discovering that I don't have the talent for it

anything bad happening to someone I love

deeply inspired by: 

beautiful prose

my sister

my friends

my kids

being in love

obsessed with:

the clutter in my house (not that I do anything about it)

wondering where the day goes

finding peanut and nut alternatives

thinking about things I could knit (as opposed to actual knitting)

tracking what books i read and planning what books i'm going to read next


in love with:


my boys

the dogs

feeling the sun on my face on a warm spring day

saved by:

blogging and my journal

world class health care


the people who love me

good chocolate

finding a reason every day to be happy.

and you?

Thanks to Mocha Momma and Dancing Mermaid for inspiring me to do this.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

not unrelated to my last post

Last night I dreamed that I had a lump in the lymph nodes above my collar bone.

I woke up terrified.

The comments on my last post were among the most thoughtful, moving and provocative that I've ever read. I have much to think about. Go read the stories that and responses that women shared with me. I feel grateful to each one of them.

Today, I am going to take the dogs for a walk and then ride my bike (unless I decide it's too cold) to Sassymonkey's house, where we will eat, drink, knit, watch a movie that has nothing at all to do with cancer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

perspective in grey

On June 30th it will be three years since my first clean scan, after the cancer had spread to my liver.

For almost three years, I have had no evidence of disease (been NED, in cancer lingo).

And yet I remain in treatment.

I am asked frequently why I continue to receive chemotherapy and Herceptin, if there is no sign of cancer in my body. And the truth is that I often ask myself the same question. Certainly, I don't feel like I have cancer. And I do feel that the cumulative effects - both physical and emotional of ongoing treatment are wearing me down.

I am stuck in cancer's grey area.

My oncologist said to me last summer, "For all we know, you could be cured."

We just don't know enough.

Another oncologist I spoke to, hinted that some would take me out of treatment at this point. A third suggested that some doctors might take me off the chemotherapy and leave me on the Herceptin.

But they all agree that we just don't know enough to make any decision based on certainty. There are just too few women in my situation, younger women who have been diagnosed with metastatic breast and responded so well to treatment, to know what to do with us in the long term.

There are more of us every year, though.

In ten years' time, there will almost certainly be more answers.

And when I get too frustrated, I remind myself that if I had been diagnosed ten years earlier, I would almost certainly be dead.

So, for now, I'll take the grey.

Monday, March 22, 2010

stepping in the right direction

On the Saturday evening of the 10th Annual Conference For Young Women Affected By Breast Cancer, a group of participants went out for dinner.

Many of us had not met before that evening. We came from Texas, California, Massachussetts and Georgia. I was the lone Canadian. It was a truly lovely evening. The food was great and the conversation flowed - from the trivial to subjects of greater import, from the general to the intensely personal.

About half-way through dinner, the subject of health care reform was raised. I said that, as a Canadian, I couldn't understand why anyone would oppose universal health care, especially anyone who has had a life-threatening illness.

Most around the table agreed with me, while one woman stated that she was resistant to any more government interference in people's lives. I soon found myself addressing the pervading myths about our health care system and was asked whether it was true that Canadians were cut off from health care when we turn 75.

I said, "No, that's not true and we don't have death panels, either."

The conversation was very respectful and never tense (unlike many, many other debates on this issue) and soon we moved on to other subjects.

And today, I want to congratulate my American friends for ignoring the fear-mongering and taking a significant step towards greater access to health care.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

happy news

I'm in Toronto for March Break and having a lovely time and have been online only intermittently. Yesterday afternoon, though, I got some surprising news that I wanted to share.

I found out yesterday that Not Done Yet is a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2009 Book of the Year Awards in the "autobiography/memoir" category.

"The finalists, representing 360 publishers, were selected from 1,400 entries in 60 categories. These books are examples of independent publishing at its best...

...ForeWord's Book of the Year Awards program was designed to discover distinctive books from independent publishers across a number of genres."

I feel very, very proud.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

getting there the hard way (part 2)

When I left off yesterday, I was stranded at the Detroit airport, standing in a line-up for three hours waiting to re-book my flight to Atlanta. 

A very drunk young guy in front of me spent the whole time hitting on all the younger women in line (I was only brought into the conversation for affirmation, "Isn't she pretty?"). He also showed us the the alligator Crocs he'd bought for his young nephew (whom he called while standing in line. Not sure where his nephew lives but it was well after 10:00pm in Detroit) and asked if the shirt and tie he'd bought matched each other. Under different circumstances, he might have been endearing but I was well and truly done with him by the time we reached the front of the line.

At the 2.5 hour point, the woman behind me in line, who had been reading the Book of Ruth and worrying relentlessly about what would happen next, stepped out of the line and went directly to an agent - who served her and sent her on her way. There were some very disgruntled rumblings about this but I'm surprised to say that no one had a meltdown, or even complained to the staff. I was very impressive by the behaviour of the crowd throughout our frustrating wait.

And there were some folks around to give us perspective, chief among them the 6 year old boy who I did not hear complain even once. There was also a big guy who was sharing some beef jerky with his neighbours. I heard him say. "This is a pain in the ass but it's better than being in Iraq." Seriously. He went on to explain that he'd recently returned from a tour of duty.

It was around this time that I overheard an agent telling folks who had succesfully re-booked that they would be given a voucher for a hotel room, if their layover was due to mechanical failure but not if it was due to weather. When she then asked folks one by one which was the reason they'd missed their flight, I did my best to send them telepathic messages, "Say 'mechanical failure'!" - because, really, if no one is checking, why would you say anything else?

I knew that my own case was ambiguous, since my original delay had been due to weather but languishing on the tarmac in Detroit had sealed my fate - and in Detroit the skies were clear and there was no snow on the ground. I was fully prepared to argue my case when it was my turn to do so, to raise my voice, to threaten a blog post and even to play the cancer card. Basically, I was ready to stoop really low to ensure that my head would rest on a pillow that night.

It was after 11:00 by the time it was my turn.

I approached one of the two agents on duty. He asked me how I was. I took one look at his face and said, "I'm just fine. How are you?"

He replied that he was OK, just frustrated because the computers were now working really slowly, to which I said, "That's OK. I've been really patient until now, I can be patient for a few more minutes."

I thought at that point that the guy was going to burst into tears. He said, "You've been really..." then interrupted himself and concentrated on getting me out of town the next day. It took a while but when I left him I had a ticket on a 7:15 flight to Nashville the next morning, a connection to Atlanta, vouchers for a hotel room (no questions asked) and for breakfast the next morning and the reassurance that my suitcase would meet me in Atlanta the next day.
After getting lost trying to find my way to the hotel shuttles, I called the hotel listed on my voucher to find out how to get there. The voice on the other end of the phone told me they were full and I should go to the Quality Inn. I called the Quality and was told how to find their shuttle.

As I left the airport, I spotted the drunk guy from the airport. He was holding the free phone to hotels looking confused. I silently wished him well but was too tired to stop and see if he needed help.

I boarded the hotel shuttle as instructed, along with a lot of other punchy, exhausted travellers (we were sitting in a circle and someone started singing, "Kumbaya!"). Our first stop was a little Days Inn. I got off to confirm with the driver that he would be stopping at the Quality Inn. 

"You have to go here, Ma'am. The Quality Inn is full and all passengers are being re-routed here."

"But I just spoke to someone at the Quality Inn and she said to come on over." I'm sure I sounded petulant.

"I've been told to take everyone here, Ma'am but I'll call for you." He placed the call while I stood there and I listened as a hysterical voice on the other end of the phone shrieked at him that they were completely full, as she had already told him.

I apologized, thanked the guy profusely and got into yet another lineup in the lobby at the Days Inn. There was one person at the front desk and she was really flustered. She loudly announced that she was not at all sure she was going to be able to acccomodate all of us. As I stood at the back of the line, I felt tears pricking my eyes.

In the end, she did have a bed for me, in a smoking room (incidentally, this is the only time in my life that I have checked into a hotel room without being asked for any form of id or a credit card). I was hungry but also nauseated, so I skipped the restaurant which was filled with smoke (it  had also been a really long time since I'd been in a public place where smoking is permitted). I went up to my room, flopped down on the bed and turned on the TV just in time to watch Joannie Rochette accept her bronze medal.

The alarm went off 4 hours after I'd closed my eyes. I showered, dressed (from now on, I'm carrying clean underwear in my carry-on) and headed down to join a throng of bleary-eyed travellers in the lobby (my "free breakfast" turned out to be a tray of wizened, sugary pastries with a large sign overhead saying "Please do not smoke during breakfast." I was tempted to take a photo but didn't want to linger, out of fear of missing my shuttle).

The hotel clerk, a young man, was on the phone as I checked out, trying frantically to find another hotel shuttle. I gather that there were twice as many people in the lobby as had signed up for the airport shuttle the day before. After a couple of minutes, a shuttle was succesfully located - another instance of someone, who is no doubt paid minimum wage to do a difficult job, pulling out all the stops. I was impressed (and I emailed hotel management to tell them so).

The rest of my trip was uneventful. I sailed through security. Bought a latte and a new paperback book and read my way through my next two flights. I arrived at the hotel in Atlanta 90 minutes before the start of my conference.

I was very happy to be there. And way too relieved to complain when I discovered that my "city view" room looked out on a giant car park.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

getting there the hard way

At the end last month, I attended the 10th Annual Conference For Young Women Affected By Breast Cancer. The conference was a wonderful experience, the getting there, however, was a traumatic experience.

The kind of experience that made me think that if I never see the inside of an airplane again, it will be too soon.

Please bear with me (or feel free to move on to more interesting places) while I rant. This is my story.

February 25

1-At 8:15am (my flight is at 11:15 and I live fifteen minutes from the airport but I have become paranoid extremely cautious about long lines and security), as I the taxi pulls up, I get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. I ask my spouse to check on my flight status. It turns out that it's been cancelled. The cab driver is none too pleased when I send him on his way.

2-Wait on hold for an hour so that I can re-book my flight. It turns out that the big storm in New York has caused many flights to be cancelled (I was scheduled to go via Newark). My new flight will take me via Detroit.

3-Leave for the airport at 1:30pm for a 4:30pm flight. End up waiting for half an hour for ticket agents to finish their break and check me in. I truly don't mind that staff take breaks. It is a little annoying when they are doing so in full view of lined up passengers. Couldn't they go have a coffee or something? Couldn't Delta have other staff cover breaks? Do they all have to go on break at the same time?

4-Clear security and proceed to the bar near my gate. Have a big beer and a sandwich. Given what follows, I end up being very grateful for the sandwich.

5- Settle in at the gate only to learn that my flight has been delayed by an hour. 

6-Board airplane and sit on the tarmac for 40 minutes as the wings are de-iced. I have a good book and lots of time to make my connection, so I'm not remotely worried.

7- Land in Detroit with an hour to spare beofre my flight to Atlanta. The flight attendant asks that all those with less than 25 minutes to make their connections be let off first. We then sit on the tarmac for an hour, growing increasingly anxious, as there is too much of a logjam to get to the gate.

8- Get off the plane after my connecting flight was scheduled to leave but note that the Departures screen indicates that my flight is still boarding. Sprint through two terminals and across the airport.

9- Arrive at my gate out of breath and with my heart pounding, to be told that a) my flight has left and b) there are no more flights to Atlanta that evening. I am directed to another gate to re-book my flight. The agent tells me that he has "no idea" whether I will be offered a hotel for the night. 

10-Try to re-book by scanning my ticket. When that doesn't work, I join a very long line,  in which I stand for three hours.

I've worn myself out just writing this. I'm going to go do something else now. I'll conclude this riveting story tomorrow. Do you have a travel horror story? Want to share it in the comments?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

10 things in march

 It apppears that I have been afflicted with writers' block and spring fever (it's been unseasonably warm and sunny here in Ottawa). And for a while there, I was recovering from chemo.

Those are the excuses I'm offering up for not writing very much lately.

I do have a bunch of posts percolating, or at least on my "to write" to do list but I thought I would kick off my return with another kind of list - an update for my 10 things for February and the new list for March.

Here's how I did last month (completed in blue, partially done in green and not even started in purple).

1. Sock monkey hat done. The pom pom has already fallen off. Once I sew it back on, I'll take photos.

2.  Socks not finished.

3. I made jambalaya and sweet potato soup.

4. I read 6 books, including the Canada Reads ones. And one big doorstop of a book.

5. I averaged closer to 4 hours of cardio per week (short of my goal of 6) but I'm cutting myself some slack because of a cold, travel and bad weather. I think 6 hours was unrealistic and am aiming for 5 hours/week of cardio this month.

6. I think I have 40 pages of my novel left to read. Scary process. I'm fine while I'm reading it but then I'm scared to pick it up again. Have to get over that.

7. I wrote at least a little bit, at least 3 times per week.

8. My clothes remain unorganized. I did do a cull of old towels and sheets, though.

9. I went skating three times! And then the ice melted.

10.  I sent the card, with the photo from last summer and the kids' school photos from this year.

So I'd call that 6 completed, 2 partially done and 2 not even started.

It felt pretty good to write that up actually. I did better than I thought I had.

Here's my list for March (I've also posted it over at BlogHer, where you can read what others have set out to do. This is such a fabulous idea, iniated by Denise Taunton, their Community Manager):

1. Finish re-reading the draft of my novel (carried over from February).

2. Organize my clothes and my closet (carried over from February).

3. Graft the toes on the socks I'm knitting for my sister (carried over from February).

4. Do an average of 5 hours of cardio exercise every week (Revised from February. I'm on track, especially since the weather has been so nice).

5. Make soup  once.

6. Spend an average of 10 hours writing per week (I have some catching up to do).

7. Make and keep an appointment with a nutritionist to work out a plan to improve my diet, then follow it (My first appointment was yesterday and so far I only have to remember to take my supplements and consume enough potassium. I can do this. My next appointment is on March 22nd).

8. Get my bike back on the road (I rode yesterday and I plan on riding to an appointment today. I've also made an appointment for a tune-up).

9. Mend/wash/block my hand knit scarves. There are five of them. Three are mine and one is an unfinished present. None of them should take very long and it would give me a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Update: After stepping away from this and considering what I have on my plate, if I get two scarves done, I will be happy.

10. Buy a swimsuit that fits (ugh).

You can play, too! What are your goals for this month? Share them in the comments or over at BlogHer (but let me know if you do).

Monday, March 01, 2010

quality of life

I just returned from the 10th Annual Conference For Young Women Affected By Breast Cancer in Atlanta.

I am so tired I can barely see straight.

It was a terrific experience and I really learned a lot but I'm feeling too brain dead to share any of the many stories swirling around in my brain.

Instead, I'll share some notes I took from a presentation by Dr. Julia Rowland, director of the National Cancer Institute's Office of Cancer Survivorship, called "Living Fully Is The Best Revenge."

In particular, Dr. Rowland shared with us the "factors associated with quality of life outcomes" - the things that need to happen for those of us who have had cancer to live long and well. My editorial comments are in brackets.

1. Accessing state of the art care (well, yeah).

2. Social support (having it and using it).

3. Finding or having a sense of purpose or meaning in one's life.

4. Learning to express oneself.

I think that these factors apply to quality of life for anyone, not just someone going through cancer treatment.

I'll be back on the other side of chemo.