Tuesday, October 26, 2010

what i would miss

I just did an interesting writing prompt from Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg:
"Tell me what you will miss when you die."
The instructions were to write for ten minutes without censoring yourself. Here's what I wrote:

My kids

My spouse

My family

My friends

My dog

Beautiful fall days

Walks along the canal with my dog

Getting lost in a book

Taking a nap on a cold afternoon

Knitting with friends

The feeling of euphoria when I write something good


Good food


Wondering at art

A hot bath after exercise

Physical intimacy (all kinds)

The happy feeling when I unexpectedly run into someone I like

Learning new things

Aha! moments

Seeing people do good things

Being proud of my children

Noisy gatherings around my dining room table

Doing fun things for the first time

Doing familiar things that make me happy

Connecting creatively or intellectually

Making new friends

Having old friends and family members who 'get' me


Fresh starts

Clean sheets

Small kindnesses

Spectacular acts of bravery

Feeling proud of myself

The way the pavement smells after a summer rain

The possibility of tomorrow

What about you?

Friday, October 22, 2010

serendipitous cycle

I feel like a little kid again.

On August 15, I won a bike.

I was at the Ottawa Folk Festival and I bought three raffle tickets for five dollars. I told several people that I planned to win the third prize - a Kona Africabike 3, donated by McCrank's Cycles.

And then I did!

And here's the interesting part. I really, really wanted a new bike. I've been riding the same diamond frame (commonly called a men's bike) hybrid for almost twenty years. It's probably the wrong size for me and had started causing me neck and shoulder pain when I rode for more than a few minutes.

Over the summer, I test rode at least a dozen bicycles from four different bike shops. I came close to buying three times but each time, something held me back.

Our finances are really tight right now and I would have to commit to any bike I bought for a long time. And although several bikes I tried seemed fine, I didn't really love any of them. I had begun to think that I was just being too picky. I had pretty much resigned myself to spending a bit of money to fix up my old bike when the week end of the Folk Festival came around.

And then I won a bike that was nothing like any of the bikes I'd test ridden. And I love it.

With it's heavy frame (42lbs!) and big tires, it feels solid and safe to ride. I love how the coaster brakes (the kind where you stop by pedalling backwards) allow me to slow down gradually (there's a hand brake that helps me to stop quickly when I need to). I really only ever used seven speeds on my old bike, so I haven't really minded that my new bike has only three. The step-through frame means I can wear whatever I want to go cycling (and means that I have fewer excuses not to ride). And the "sit up and beg" style of riding means no pain and whole new way of taking in the world.

It's so much fun to ride! As I did all those test rides this summer, I kept waiting to fall in love and it just didn't happen. It turns out that the bike I needed was one I had been refusing to even consider (and that some of the features I had rejected are the ones I love the best).

For the first few days after I brought my bike home I'd sneak out to the garage just to admire it. I've even named it Steel Horse (because it's such a beast and after the song "I Am An Excellent Steel Horse" by Rock Plaza Central, a band I heard for the first time at this year's folk festival).

I've noticed that people smile at me when I ride my bike. I think it's because I'm grinning like an idiot.

When I was seven years old, I had a red bike with a yellow banana seat. That was my first bike and I've never loved another bike as much. Until now.

For every two Africabikes that are purchased, Kona donates one to it's Basic Needs program in Africa (these bikes were designed to be virtually maintenance free and to be easily ridden on the most rugged of roads). These bikes have been used to help health care workers to deliver HIV/AIDS drugs and to enable girls to travel longer distances to get to school.

If you live near Ottawa and are thinking of getting an Africabike (or any Kona bicycle) for yourself, please go to McCrank's Cycles. Peter Conway is a really good guy (and very generous!), who provides great bike service. He deserves your support.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

ottawa october

All photos: K. Bruin

In October, I live in the
most beautiful place in the world.

On, Thanksgiving week end (two weeks ago for those of you reading outside of Canada), my family was so fortunate to have a wonderful guest. My friend K. and I have been friends since we were 17 years old. We met as new room-mates in Room 1 of McLaughlin House at Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific. She was there representing the Netherlands and I hailed from Hawkesbury, Ontario.

We became friends pretty much instantly, through struggles with friendships, school and heartbreak and whole lot of fun. We travelled to Vancouver together and she once took me out on a sail boat into the bay so I could engage in a little primal screaming.

In my second year, after she'd graduated, I missed her terribly. We've been lucky though. Work has brought her to Canada three times in the last five years and we've been able to spend time together. My family has fallen in love with her. And I can't wait until next year, when she comes back.

When we were at school together, we lived in a very beautiful place and I know that K. loves this country almost as much as I do. But until this year, she'd never seen Eastern Ontario on a beautiful fall day.

This year, we had a chance to rectify that and we took advantage of the long week end and the glorious fall weather to go for a walk in Gatineau Park. K. was the only one of us who took photos on our outing and she's given me permission to share them with you. My only regret? There are no photos of the two of us together. We'll have to rectify that next year.

Friday, October 15, 2010

making the best of it

I think I've coped with chemo week much better this time around (thanks in part to some good advice from a friend).

Friday, October 08, 2010

"body, mind, spirit" a national conference for younger women affected by breast cancer

From the Canadian Breast Cancer Network:

Please circulate this to your network members, friends and family, we would love to see them there!

OTTAWA, Oct 1 /CNW/ - Today, October 1, is the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Canadian Breast Cancer Network and co-presenter Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation will recognize the month with a unique networking event for 400 young women with breast cancer.

The National Conference, called "Body, Mind, Spirit", will offer young women with breast cancer the opportunity to network with others who understand their situation, find out about the latest research directly from some of Canada's bright young researchers, and follow theme sessions on issues everyone with breast cancer is confronted with.

Young women will have the chance to be supported in all aspects of their cancer journey. Theme sessions for the body include healthy living and prevention; for the mind, sessions on chemo brain, self-advocacy, medical research and the latest about breast cancer; for the spirit will touch on everything from Yoga sessions to a chance for a guided walk in a specially constructed Labyrinth for spiritual centering.

Participants can look forward to frank discussion and to be able to question experts about babies after breast cancer, breast reconstruction, what to tell your children about breast cancer and when, and intimacy and sexuality after breast cancer.

A writing workshop and a creative art session will aid self-expression, and book signings and a breast-cancer related art show will give participants a chance to create art, meet authors and to view theme art by people from all over Canada affected by breast cancer. Poster presentations will cover all that is new from breast cancer resources to community support groups. Author and breast cancer husband Mark Silver will interest many with his experiences and encouragement. .

The conference will feature two gala evenings; a "Dinner and a Movie" night presented by Rethink Breast Cancer, a special glimpse of their upcoming BreastFest with Jonna's Body, Please Hold and an appearance by filmmaker and comedian, Jonna who will present her Girl Manifesto - an uproarious look at our kooky notions of body image, defying the Image Police and freeing your inner renegade. Movie night food at a picnic in the park will feature everyone's favorite treats.

The second Gala will feature an Arabian Night with belly dancing, hand kohl painting, a blaze of color, special d├ęcor and treats for everyone present, a banquet as only the Hilton Hotel can produce, and special guest Rock Star Bif Naked who will share her breast cancer journey with her story "Rock Your Cancer".

Canada's own beacon of hope Carole Ann Cole, originator of the Comfort Heart symbol worn by hundreds of thousands, will be one of the speakers at an upbeat closing ceremony.

"Body, Mind, Spirit" takes place in Toronto, October 29-31. No registrations will be available on site for this conference, which is expected to sell out to 400 participants. A special hotel conference rate of $129 per night at the downtown Toronto Hilton will only apply to a block of rooms being held until October 8.

Registration is now open through www.cbcn.ca

I attended the first conference organized by the CBCN in 2007. It was an amazing experience. I'll be attending again this November (I am the fortunate recipient of a scholarship). Will you join me?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

letter of the day

Yesterday, CBC Radio's Q featured an interview with Samantha King, author of Pink Ribbons Inc.

At the end of the interview, listeners asked the following questions (they were also posted to the Q blog): What are your impressions of cancer fundraising and awareness efforts? Are they working? Do you find any aspect of them troubling?

My sister-in-law, B. alerted me to the interview (she listens on the east coast schedule) and encouraged me to write a letter in response. This morning, a slightly edited version of this letter was read on the air (I was the "Letter of the Day"):

In January 2006, when I was 38 years old an the mother of two young children, I was diagnosed with very aggressive breast cancer. I underwent a brutal treatment regimen only to learn in November of that same year that the cancer had spread to my liver. I was told that I had “years, not decades” to live.

I resumed treatment and, this time, my response was immediate and dramatic – by June 2007, there was no longer any sign of cancer in my body. As I write this, I am still in remission. I'm also still in treatment, as we don't know enough about what happens when metastatic breast cancer disappears to make an informed decision about stopping.
I know without a doubt that I am alive today because of the kind of cutting edge research funded by breast cancer organizations. I also know that thousands of women who've been through breast cancer live better lives because of the kind of advocacy and outreach work that is undertaken by non-profit organizations.
But I do cringe, seethe and yes, even rant every time October comes around and we are deluged with pink products from fried chicken to face cream to key chains.

In theory, I'm not opposed to corporate sponsorship. But in the same way that I think cigarette companies should not be permitted to sponsor children's festivals, I'm offended when companies that sell products that are unhealthy, bad for the environment and laden with carcinogens jump on the “pinxploitation” bandwagon. At best, these campaigns do little to eradicate breast cancer and worst, they are a cynical attempt to grab some good PR and increase profit margins at the expense of anyone who's life has been affected by cancer.

Don't get me wrong. I don't judge anyone who's drawn to all the pink stuff. I own a lovely pink cowboy hat. I would just ask folks to think before they get swept up in the “Pinktober” frenzy. Put that pink soup back on the shelf. Step away from the pink sweater with the pink ribbon buttons (for so many reasons). Unless you really want the pink sunglasses, save your money. Most companies only give a tiny percentage of sales to breast cancer research. Why not make a donation instead to an organization that is demonstrably contributing to research, advocacy and especially prevention of all cancers? Then you'll know that you really are making a difference.
All the letters that the host, Jian Ghomeshi, read were on this subject and all of them opposed pinkwashing. Perhaps tomorrow will bring a deluge of letters taking an opposing opinion but it's good to see that more of us are speaking out on this issue that has driven me wild since my own diagnosis of breast cancer.

Cross-posted to Mothers With Cancer.

Monday, October 04, 2010

i ran for the cure

photo: Ian Hendel

With my sister.

At the finish line.

Wearing my Songbird scarf.

And my hat from Texas.

Team NO PINK FOR PROFIT was 43 members strong. We raised a whopping $25,000.

Sometimes life is very sweet.