Friday, November 26, 2010

it gets better. and it can get better now, too.

Chances are very good that you've already heard of the It Gets Better Project, which was started in response to a series of suicides. Young people (some as young as 13 years old) are choosing to kill themselves rather than continue to deal with being bullied or shamed.

I love this powerful, touching and often funny series of videos aimed to give hope to young (and older) teens who are feeling depressed or alone because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.

This one from Pixar is the favourite in my house.

A day or two ago, The Maven shared this video on Facebook. These kids are saying that things need to get better now, not just in the future. It's brilliant and I am in awe.

Reteaching Gender and Sexuality from PUT THIS ON THE MAP on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

but i have an excuse (actually i have a few)

I bailed on National Novel Writing Month on the first day, having written just under 700 words.

I felt like there were too many other interesting bits of writing that I wanted to do, including continuing to edit last year's novel.

And then my life became insane. I've been really hard on myself for all the things I'm not doing lately. This week, though, I've had two people who are very important to me (my coach/therapist and my friend DM) listen to me unload and then tell me that I would have every right to feel overwhelmed with a fraction of what I've got on my plate.

I tend to be hard on myself because I don't work outside the home right now. If I don't go to a job I feel like I should just sail through my other commitments. It felt really good to list everything going on in my life and have two women I respect offer support and sympathy. I've decided that I need to cut myself a lot more slack.

I can do NaNoWriMo next year. I'm OK with that. But I did feel a pang when my son sent me this video:

NaNoWriMo was a fun kind of crazy. I just couldn't let the rest of my life go to do it this year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

and then my hair got did (final makeover post, i promise)

Of the four women being made over, two of us picked our clothes and shoes in the morning and then had our hair done after lunch. I was grateful to be in the afternoon group and have someone else do the work for a couple of hours.

Actually, I did have to do a bit of work. It took concentration to separate those little papers.

You can't really see all of them, but there are THREE little bowls of colout being applied to my head.

This is my favourite part.

And this is why my hair will never again look the way it did when Tony was finished with it. How does anyone do the back of their own head like that?

Thanks so much to Tony from L'Elégance Salon (they don't have a web site or I'd provide a link), the St. Laurent Centre and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation for making all of this possible.

(All photos by S. Sioufi except the last which was provided by T. Vincent)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

and then it got easier

It's not that I don't have anything else to talk about. It's just that life has been really, really busy lately and when I finally get the time to blog, my brain is no longer working.

I thought I'd continue sharing my makeover photo-story with you. Please feel free to move right along if you're bored with this stuff. Let me know in the comments if you've read anything interesting lately.

Meanwhile, the shoe store was more fun than the changing room:

First I had to pretend to be shopping for shoes, so that A Channel could get some footage.

Check out the heels on these babies.

I threw on this dress so that I could be filmed without ruining the surprise. It hadn't even been among the outfits that I considered but I loved it so much that I thought about changing my mind. Or going back a few days later and buying it. But seriously - where would I wear a second fancy outfit? To the dog park? Buying groceries? To parent-teacher interviews?

Can you tell which shoes I came in with?

It just occurred to me that the ones I chose (#53) look a bit like my old Blundstones mated with the those sexy pumps I looked at when I was still wearing the diva dress. Little boots but with a ridiculous heel.

See that crazy grin on my face? I love shopping for shoes.

Here's a better view of the whole ensemble. The St. Laurent Centre even paid to have my top altered. The outfit is hanging in my closet. I may just decide that I will wear it to the dog park.

Monday, November 22, 2010

chronological order

Arrived at the St. Laurent Centre with my friend SS, met the other women and realized that I was going to have an exciting day.

I was impressed with Tony from L'Elegance. He was consultative but had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted to do.

Trying on clothes was hard work. I don't have photos of some of the real duds or I would share (really I would). Finding items that fit and looked good was a real challenge and there were moments when I felt extremely frustrated. There were lots of great helpers, though.

I was determined to be open-minded but this was just too much sparkly for me. I felt like I was wearing a very shiny washboard.

Friday, November 19, 2010

makeover day

We arrived at the studio very early.

The anticipation was far worse than the experience of being on camera, which went pretty smoothly. And I didn't fall down!

The Fab Four with Tony from L'Elégance Hair (Tony gave us hours of his time - all day Monday and early Wednesday morning - taking great care with our colour and cuts. This lovely man is an artist. You should all go to St. Laurent Centre and get him to do your hair).

My favourite interviewer.

Blogging on the fly today (more pics and words about all of this soon) but I didn't want to let another day go by without acknowledging those who made this possible.

My friends AB for nominating me, SS for coming on Monday and MR for getting up early and joining my family at the studio.

My man and my boys (all photos courtesy of SKW) for the nomination, for getting up early to come to the studio and cheering every step of the way (and for saying that I was beautiful BEFORE I had the makeover).

The staff at Laura, Town Shoes, and L'Elégance Hair Salon.

Tasha and Renée from the St. Laurent Centre for the styling and the support.

To the lovely and talented woman who did all of our makeup on Wednesday morning (her name is escaping me. If you know it, please let me know so I can credit her).

And most of all, to Bernice from the St. Laurent Centre and Beth from the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. These women are dynamos who combine talent and determination with an enormous amount of compassion and kindness.

And finally, I need to mention Paula, JL and Tanya - the women with whom I went through this experience. The love, support and joy that each felt for each other and for me is impossible to express in words. Thanks so much for being so beautiful. I really do love each one of you.

It must be mentioned that this was all in aid of the Courage Campaign of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. The Foundation is building a Wellspring Centre that will provide "emotional, psychological and educational support, free of charge, to individuals and families living with cancer." As a an ongoing cancer patient, I can tell you that this the kind of thing that Ottawa needs desperately, to go along with the cutting edge medical care from which we all benefit.

It's not too late to make a donation! (The St. Laurent Centre, in addition to funding the makeovers, donated an additional $10,000 to the campaign. I know where I'm doing my Xmas shopping this year).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

makeover show tomorrow

For those in the Ottawa area, my makeover will be televised on the
A Channel tomorrow morning. My segments will air tomorrow morning at 9:13, 9:35 and 9:48.

Yesterday, I shopped and had my hair done. Tune in tomorrow for the big "reveal." Look at my smile in this pic. I was very spoiled and surrounded by amazingly caring people all day. I was overwhelmed by the kindness and enthusiasm of everyone I met, including the other three women who joined me in this adventure.

Thanks so much to the St. Laurent Centre and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation for making this happen, to T. and AB for nominating me and to SS for coming with me for moral support (and taking all these great photos).

Friday, November 12, 2010

making an adventure

photo: M. Slavitch

Early Thursday afternoon, as I woke up from a nap (I'd been sleeping off the toxins of chemo), my spouse came down from his attic office with an odd look on his face.

"Are you ready for some news?"

"Is it good news or bad news?" I said, attempting wake up.

"Good news, I think." He was giggling and looked a little stunned.

"Remember when you asked me to nominate you for a makeover at St, Laurent Shopping Centre?"

My eyes widened.

"You're in!"

They he told me that I needed to go to the mall for shopping and consultation and then, on Wednesday, I would be going to /A\ Channel to be made over on the air.

In case you missed that last bit, I'll repeat that this is a TELEVISED MAKEOVER.

"There's more," Tim added as I sat opening and closing my mouth like a fish. "It's a holiday makeover. You know, so that you can be ready for all the holiday parties you go to."

I do not go to any holiday parties where I can't wear jeans and a t-shirt. In fact, that's the smartest thing to wear to most holiday parties I might possibly attend.

"She actually used the word 'sparkly'." My dear spouse was by this point, enjoying himself. "And you have to decide today."

When I read on Twitter that St. Laurent was asking for nominations for cancer survivor makeovers, I impulsively asked T. to submit my name. I was confident that I wouldn't be chosen because I figured they'd want someone who looked more like a cancer patient. And if I were chosen I thought I'd just go to the mall, get made over and then have some pictures taken for their web site.

But I did get chosen. And when I went on Twitter and Facebook and asked my peeps what I should do, the answer was unanimous - "Go for it!"

So I'm going for it.

This is all being organized by the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and I do want to help draw attention to the good work that they do.

The St. Laurent Centre has some really great stores and I could end up with some great new gear and a fresh new look.

I could use the lift. It is easy to feel frumpy when you're out of the work force and pinching pennies. And chemo does take a physical as well as emotional toll.

And it could be fun.

So I've decided to approach this with an open mind and a spirit of adventure.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, November 08, 2010

contested irrelevance

I'm going to be quoting this brilliant speech given by my friend Andrea today (I'm doing a talk at Carleton University) and I realized that I have never shared it with you here, even though I found it to be deeply inspiring.

Please watch, and go and leave a comment over at We Can Rebuild Her so that Andrea can know the relevance and resonance of her words. It's a welcome reminder that nothing we do to effect positive change in this world is ever irrelevant.

This talk got a standing ovation at PAB 2010. I've watched it several times and it still gives me shivers.

Friday, November 05, 2010

when the doorbell rang (part 1)

It's 3:00 am and about half an hour ago, my doorbell rang.

At least I think it did, but my spouse thinks I was dreaming. I remember that I
was dreaming but about eating pastries while being handed a wad of twenty dollar bills. Who interrupts a dream about eating pastries and getting free money by dreaming the door bell? Some kind of Freudian diet police?

My reaction to the doorbell ringing was swift. I woke up my husband.

And then I lay there all cozy and warm in our bed while he went downstairs to investigate. I even muttered (somewhat sheepishly), "Be careful."

It was like something from one of the sitcoms I watched when I was growing up. Except that by then it was the seventies and eighties and in the sitcoms the wives would tiptoe downstairs behind their husbands.

And the men would usually be clutching a baseball bat.

We don't keep a baseball bat by the bed. We don't even own a baseball bat. The only thing close at hand that would be the approximate size and weight one could swing at an evildoer would be the dog. Who, incidentally, wasn't barking. I suppose one could take that as further evidence that I was dreaming.

So T. went downstairs and checked the front and back doors. There was no one there.

I think that whoever it was ran away. T., as I said before, thinks I dreamed it.

Fortunately, my dear spouse fell back asleep almost immediately. He's snoring now, as I type this, wide awake. Some kind of karmic justice?

The thing is our doorbell did ring, at around this time, last Saturday night when I was out of town. It was also the night before Hallowe'en, which at least in the telling, makes it creepier. But that's a story for another blog post.

Maybe now that I've confessed, I'll be permitted to return to dreamland.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

this is kind of nice as included Not Just About Cancer in their list of "15 Inspiring Breast Cancer Blogs."

Get inspired by this breast cancer survivor, who turned her unfortunate situation into a book about defying the odds and beating cancer.

Pretty cool, no? It's nice to know that someone's reading and finding resonance in my words. As for the "beating cancer" part - I know it lurks there somewhere and that we who have gone to Stage 4 are never, ever out of the woods but I do like to think I'm beating it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

mind body spirit

Thanks to Andrea for the photo.

I just spent an inspiring (and I don't use that word lightly) week end at Body, Mind, Spirit, 2010: National Conference for Young Women Living with Breast Cancer.

My best parts:

A Friday afternoon workshop: "Take charge of Your Treatment for Women with Metastatic Breast Cancer" with Dr. Maureen Trudeau. Engaging, accessible, interesting, informative and hopeful.

A Saturday afternoon workshop: "Intimacy after Cancer: Rekindling the Flame" with Dr. Sally Kydd. Amusing, motivating, reassuring, helpful and just plain fun.

A Sunday morning workshop: "Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer. Support that Works" with Dr. Tzeporah Cohen. Emotional,moving, cathartic, uniting, strengthening.

Speakers who resonated: Deborah Dubenofsky (Ontario Region Board Chair, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation) and Carol Ann Cole.

My takeaway message (from Dr. Natasha Zajmalowski, Dr. Rob Rutledge, Dr. Roanne Segal and others)-

When it comes to breast cancer recurrence, it appears that insulin is the root of all evil. Lowering insulin levels improves the odds for a long and healthy life. How to do this:

1. Get at least thirty-five minutes of moderate exercise every day. Hooray! Something I'm already doing right!

2. Maintain a healthy body weight. This has provided the kick in the pants to re-commit to dropping 44lbs by my 44th birthday. Weighing too little isn't good either but that's never been my problem.

3. Eliminate or reduce alcohol and sugar. The insulin explanation is the first one I've understood and accepted re the link between these yummy things and cancer recurrence. To be truthful, not being an "all or nothing" kind of person, I don't see myself promising to never consume booze or sweets again. I can't even say that I haven't partaken since the conference, this being the season of Hallowe'en and pumpkin ale. I can say that I will make a greater effort to hold out for the good stuff and not give in to cravings.

I'm happy to say that although this message was consistent, the speakers seemed to be devoid of judgment. No one was blaming the victim or telling cancer patients that they brought the cancer on themselves.

I still feel that there are greater environmental and medical issues that need to be addressed. But there are just so few things we can control as cancer patients that I appreciate straightforward advice and simple things I can do to increase my odds of being around to see my children grow up.

Thank you so much to the staff (especially Jenn McNeill of the CBCN) and volunteers (especially Andrew, a volunteer from Humber college who helped with my books, kept me company and was enormously supportive during and after my book signing) at the Canadian Breast Cancer Network and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation for helping me to promote Not Done Yet, and especially for organizing an amazing conference.

Can we do it again next year, please?

Monday, November 01, 2010

sugar hangover

Lots to tell about the conference I just attended but I'm exhausted and it's not just the result of all the sugar that was consumed in our house last night.

Instead of words, I give you some of the coolest kids in the world:

How often does one see a lady bug hanging out with Captain Kirk and the Grim Reaper? Death himself is my adorable offspring. The little trekkie and the bug are his very brave friends.

12 year old S. opted not to go trick or treating for the first time this year. Instead, he and his dad went to an early viewing off a movie that's usually shown at midnight. He's a character from that movie. Can you guess who he is? Those who've been privy to the discussion on Facebook are not allowed to vote!