Monday, October 31, 2011

questions off the grid

 Last week, I spent several days in a cabin on a very quiet island in Northern Ontario. It was bliss.

We were also completely offline. No phone, no electricity, no internet. I didn't mind one bit but it did serve to underline how often I have come to rely on Mr. Google to provide information. Here are just a few of the questions that went unanswered:

What is the weather forecast?

What is fracking?

How do I knit cables without making holes in my knitting?

What are the health benefits of okra?

What are the ingredients in sweet potato pie?

What dogs are in the high risk group for bloat?

Is there a specific person assigned to travel with the Stanley Cup?  (The internet has failed me on this one! One link said there are three Hall of Fame staff who travel with the Cup but when I clicked through to the the article itself, the info was not included).

Friday, October 21, 2011

going away

Later this morning, my dog and I are going off on an adventure.

We're taking the train to Toronto and then piling into a van with two big Labradors and one of the people I love the most in the world. We'll drive several hours in a northerly direction and then we'll take a boat to a quiet island.

For several days, we will eat, talk, walk, read, I will knit and we will talk some more (or at least the humans will. The dogs will join in the walking part and will do their own share of eating). We will be completely off the grid.

On Thursday, we will pack up our gear into the boat and reverse the process to travel home.

This is the second time we have done this (although the first time for Lucy, my Tibetan Terrier). Last year, I had been teetering on the edge of a depression and came home feeling restored. This year, I'm in a much better space and absolutely giddy with anticipation.

There are lots of potential challenges - last year the boat wouldn't start but we were able to find the home of the guy who rents some. Whatever, comes up, though, we will have each other and some good stories to tell.

See you on the other side.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

leaning in

A friend on Facebook shared a post by Alexandra Samuel about the practice of "leaning in" in the context of dealing with one of her kids' ongoing troubles with school:
Instead of the emergency visits that might come at any time, we decided to schedule daily visits to school, so both we and our kids would know when one or the other parent was going to appear. We told the teacher to count on our regular arrival time, and to set aside work we could do to be helpful while we were in the classroom. We opened our calendars, and made a schedule of who would cover which days. We stopped resisting, and decided to lean in.

“Leaning in” is the practice of accepting what you have tried to avoid, resist, or struggle against. As Tara Brach puts it in Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha,
As we lean in, we are inviting, moving toward what we habitually resist. Leaning in allows us to touch directly the quivering, the shakiness, the gripping tightness that is fear. Whether it is a familiar but vague feeling of anxiety or a strong surge of fear, leaning in can help us become aware and free in the midst of our experience.
This post has stayed with me. And in the last few days, I've re-read it many times. I have a few issues in my life that I have been avoiding and the anxiety is mounting, subtly but gradually. Perhaps it is time to lean in.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

growing up

Daniel, who is eight years old, has been badgering us to let him walk the three blocks to school by himself. I'm not ready.

I've known for a while that this time was coming. Last year at this time, he was still holding my hand. Now he likes to walk a few steps ahead. I have to give him his hug goodbye before we are within sight of the school. When he walks into the yard, he doesn't look back.

A few weeks ago, I sent Daniel to the corner store down the block by himself for the first time. He came back clutching the chocolate chips he'd been sent for so tightly that half the bag had melted. And he was so, so proud.

Yesterday afternoon, Daniel asked Tim to ride ahead on his bike so that he could walk by himself. "Let me show you what I can do," he said. So Tim let him walk, circling the block a few times to check up on him and I waited anxiously at home for the knock on our door. Again, when he arrived home, my boy was so, so proud.

I remember the gut-wrenching anxiety I experienced when his brother was this same age and demanding to be allowed to walk on his own. In the years since, we have gradually given him more freedom and he's impressed us with his sense of responsibility - even in some very challenging situations.

It ought to be easier the second time around - and it some ways it is. I feel more relaxed as a parent since Sacha has acquitted himself so well. But I still worry every time one of my boys is out of my sight for too long.

Mostly, I don't like having to let them go. The days of thirteen year old Sacha sitting in my lap to watch a movie are behind us. Every hug from him is precious because they are doled out so sparingly. And Daniel is my baby. There are no little ones coming up behind him to help mitigate my sense of loss.

I know that kids must grow up and away from their parents. A big part of this whole exercise of parenting is about teaching them to be happy, independent people. I just wish it weren't happening so quickly.

And I still want to walk down the street, holding my baby's hand.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

not worried

I had a heart scan at the hospital today. 

I rode my bike there up some pretty steep hills.

I was so engrossed in my book, I didn't hear the technician the first time he called me.

I fell asleep during on the scan table.

I guess I'm not too worried.

Monday, October 17, 2011

a perfect example (one for the pinxploitation hall of shame)

Procter & Gamble's cosmetics division is making a big deal this month about supporting early breast cancer detection, an important issue. But we think P&G should start with prevention by promising to stop using chemicals linked to cancer in its products.According to the Skin Deep database, P&G still uses parabens – in particular, methylparaben – in hundreds of its Cover Girl, Max Factor, Infusium and other products.
Parabens are compounds widely used as antimicrobial preservatives in cosmetics products. They're also estrogen mimickers, and have been found in breast tumors.
A new study found that methylparaben can not only cause healthy breast cells to behave like cancer cells, but also interfere with the effectiveness of tamoxifen, an important breast cancer drug.
Please let P&G and everyone else know that this pinxploitation is completely unacceptable. If they care about more than pinkwashing their products, they would stop including carcinogens among the ingredients of so many of their products.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"wear black and save the rack" (from 'ihatebreastcancer')

Words from a woman after my own heart:
...we here at the I Hate Metastatic Breast Cancer Foundation have a saying: If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em.
I am so pleased to embrace this noble cause for all of us on this brave and selfless journey of ours. Yes, the I Hate Metastatic Breast Cancer Foundation has now latched  on to a surefire vehicle to beef up the anemic state of metastatic breast cancer research*: BRACELETS! But not just any bracelets, MBC Bracelets.
Our MBC bracelets are not a gaudy yellow or girly pink but a tasteful and understated black. Each one comes with a photo and the personal story of a U.S. person who died from breast cancer last year. Choose from more than 45,000 stories! More added every day!

You can read the rest of the post at ihatebreastcancer.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

please be aware

Six years ago, I thought I had a pretty good vocabulary but I didn't know the meaning of "metastatic" until I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, only 15 per cent of women with mets will still be alive 5 years after their diagnosis. I'm one of the lucky ones ( stats are bogus anyway).

I think one of the reasons I get so angry at campaigns aimed at "saving [insert infantile name for 'breasts' here]" is that, for those of us with metastatic breast cancer, the breast was only the beginning. Our cancer has spread to our bones, brains, liver, lungs or skin. We are "the bad girls of breast cancer."

And we want you to know about us.

We are:




And we remember:


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

go read this

Throughout BREAST CANCER AWARENESS month, I'm going to be featuring posts from around the web that really resonate with me on the subject of pinkwashing.

"This is how "In Jersey / Jersey Shore Magazine" depicts what they think is important for the women of the Jersey Shore area to know about breast cancer...On page 52 we're treated to a Tickled Pink fashion spread of glossy made-up survivors in their breast cancer charity of choice t-shirts and then bedazzled in all manner of pink ribbon accessories and jewellery all available for purchase at listed stockists. As for the copy; here's my personal favorite..."showcased here in an array of pink items, they show a verve and vitality that is the essence of the spirit of all survivors...." Nothing says verve and vitality like a $139.95 Sparkle Strong Breast Cancer Survivor Necklace I guess!"

If you want to understand more about living with metastatic breast cancer and why some of us bristle (and even rage) about all the pink crap, check out the info on the right side of the blog. Well written, informative and entertaining. This blog is well worth reading.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

being the first

It turns out that a cardio-oncologist is a doc who knows something about the heart and oncology drugs. The guy I met yesterday looked way too young too have studied for that many years but really did seem to know his stuff.

Perhaps I'm just getting old.

Some things I learned:

My heart was permanently damaged by the Adriamycin. As a result, my ejection fraction has been bouncing around the low range of normal for years.

Echo cardiograms have a ten point margin of error, so my ejection fraction may not have dropped as much as it appeared.

I have no symptoms of heart failure.

Should I have the symptoms of heart failure, I should go to emergency (no kidding!).

There is no reason that I cannot engage in vigorous excercise (there goes my excuse for not running).

I don't need to stop Herceptin (awesome news).

I might have to go on a drug that protects my heart. The doc is on the fence about it right now but if my ejection fraction drops much more, than he will prescribe it.

Even then, I still won't have to stop Herceptin.

I am being sent for a MUGA - a different kind of heart scan - to see if it picks up anything different than my echo.

I mentioned that there must be some uncertainty, given that he likely hasn't seen many people who've been on Herceptin on a long term basis.

He told me that I am the first. But that there will likely be many more.

Monday, October 03, 2011

no pink for profit runs/walks for the cure v2.0

The miraculous photo in which we all have our eyes open! photo: I. Hendel

There was some incredible coverage in the Ottawa Citizen this year. All the articles listed below were also in the Saturday print version of the paper (for my American friends: the Saturday papers have the highest circulation, as yours do on Sunday):

The Citizen also posted a short video to their web site:

Thanks so much to all the team members (including those who who were not able to attend the walk/run) and to everyone who donated. Special thanks to Andrea (who is the real woman wearing the pinnie in the Citizen photos) for holding my hand through the surreal filming of the video and to our honorary team members, Tim (picked up the team kits and t-shirts) Ian (took photos and custody of our stuff while we walked and Lee (stepped up with kid distraction when it was very much needed).

May we all be healthy and able to do it next year. And may there soon come a time when the Run for the Cure is a thing of the past.

"I'm running for...Deanna, Susan, Judy (and me). 
In memory of Sarah and Rebecca." 
photo: A. Ross